In Memoriam: Howard H. Roberts
Howard H. Roberts passed away February 10, 2007, at the age of 80. He was an enthusiast of rhododendrons, a willing helper in the American Rhododendron Society, and a truly fine gentleman.
Howard grew up in Pennsylvania on land deeded by William Penn to his Welsh ancestor John Roberts. He served as an ambulance driver for the American Field Service in India during World War II. Afterwards, he graduated from Princeton University. He worked in real estate, banking and advertising and as an executive for a uniform manufacturer.
In 1951 he married Joan Church and together they lived in Rosemont for 37 years in the home, where he developed a wonderful garden. Howard was active in his church. He was a volunteer and served on the Board of the Dolphins of Delaware Valley, whose members visit nursing home residents. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, a son and three grandchildren.
A member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, Howard was a devoted worker in its activities. He served as chapter president and director. Howard co-chaired the plant sale committee and helped continue the success of this enterprise. He organized the chapter's seed exchange and developed it into a regional and district function. He was a contributor to the Journal American Rhododendron Society. He described in two articles the gardens and activities of the 2004 ARS International Convention at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Howard enthusiastically sought to attract new members to the Society and to involve them in the workings of the organization. The Greater Philadelphia Chapter awarded Howard the Bronze Medal.
Howard was a plantsman and hybridizer. His quest was to create a good yellow rhododendron for the Philadelphia climate. He grew more than 400 plants in his garden. Included were his own hybrids and those from ARS Seed Exchange and chapter contributors. We looked forward to seeing the new hybrids he exhibited at the chapter's Truss Shows and he never disappointed us. Most recently he wrote in the Journal on hybridizing: "Why our best hybrids tend to turn up in other people's gardens."
Howard also pushed the limits of hardiness by testing plants considered too tender for his clime. His success in growing and flowering several of these caused one well-known expert to call him admiringly "Steam-pipe Roberts." With his usual grace and humor Howard accepted the ribbing and complement with a smile.
We shall miss our gentle and beloved friend.