JARS v62n1 - In Memoriam: Richard H. Gustafson

In Memoriam: Richard H. Gustafson
Hank Schannen

It is with great sadness that we note the death of our good friend Dick Gustafson, this past September. He was a true believer in our favorite genus and his observations, willing helping hands, and friendship will be greatly missed.
Richard H. Gustafson, Ph.D., of Durham, North Carolina, formerly of Princeton Junction, New Jersey, died at home on September 19, 2007, at the age of 78. He is survived by his wife of almost fifty-five years, Jeanne K. Gustafson; three daughters and seven grandchildren. Dick, as he was familiarly known, received his Ph.D. in virology from the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University. He was a Research Fellow in the field of antibiotic resistance at American Cyanamid, Princeton, NJ, until his retirement.
As an active member of the American Rhododendron Society, he served on the national board of directors and as president of the Princeton Chapter, and on numerous committees of the national and local organizations. He was an avid rhododendron hybridizer and plant photographer. He traveled internationally visiting rhododendron gardens, and was a frequent attendee at national and regional rhododendron conferences. He was a Bronze Medal recipient of the Princeton Chapter.
Dick will be well remembered for his contributions in the establishment of the Sandwich Club. In the early 1980s he, along with Don Kellam and other ARS members, visited the Sandwich, Massachusetts, farm of Charles O. Dexter now known as the Heritage Museum and Gardens. They recognized many unnamed second-generation Dexter hybrids growing there in the woods. Some appeared to be equal and even better than the named Dexter cultivars. Most were Dexter derivatives hybridized by Dexter's gardener, Tony Consolini, and by Jack Cowles, the horticulturist at Heritage from 1959 through 1967.
The existence of this superior group of rhododendrons was reported at the ARS Board of Directors meeting in Williamsburg, VA, in 1988. President Harold Greer appointed Dick Gustafson and Don Kellam to co-chair a committee, later known as the Sandwich Club, to study and preserve the best of the unnamed progeny of Dexter hybrids. After Don passed away in 1992, Dick led the group alone until 2003, after which he was an active participant in the Club's activities.
With Dick's leadership the Sandwich Club has evaluated and cataloged approximately 2,000 of the "Heritage Hybrid Progeny" and registered several outstanding cultivars. These include 'Cape White', 'Bellringer', 'Kabuki', 'Don Kellam' and Dick's favorite, 'Beryl Coronet'. With support from Heritage the Club has propagated and distributed numbered plants to east coast gardens for evaluation. In this effort, Dick is fondly remembered auctioning rooted cuttings of these plants to enthusiasts at the annual meeting of the Sandwich Club.
His own hybridizing yielded, among others, the registered plants 'Original Vagabond', 'Peach Flambé', 'Radiant Frills', 'Lemon Zinger', 'Chromatic Fantasy', and 'Scarborough Fair' (name unregistered).
My own fondest memories of Dick were weekly midday coffee "klatches" in which we argued the merits of rhododendron parents, and his and Jeanne's wonderful "after Christmas" luncheon at which he served homemade warm mugs of Swedish grog as we sat around and discussed - what else? - rhododendrons, of course!