JARS v64n3 - In Memoriam: William (Bill) Dale

In Memoriam: William (Bill) Dale
Bill McMillan

William (Bill) Atheling Dale passed away on May 4, 2010, at the age of 93. Bill was born in Morse, Saskatchewan, on March 29, 1917. He met his wife, Mary, while both were on the Canadian team at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, Australia. Bill placed third in the 880 yard run and was on the winning mile relay team. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he trained to become a pilot and received his pilot's wings in 1944.

Bill spent his working life in the pulp and paper industry on the coast of British Columbia and was manager of the pulp mills at both Port Alice and Woodfibre. When he retired, he and Mary moved to the Saanich Peninsula just north of Victoria, and became interested in gardening and rhododendrons. He was a member of the Victoria and Cowichan Valley Chapters of the ARS for many years. Bill loved flower photography and his rhododendron garden. He had many friends in garden and rhododendron clubs on Vancouver Island. His passion for rhododendrons was equalized only by his interest in the history of rhododendron plant collectors and growers.

Through the years, Bill became an authority on the life and times of George Fraser, a plantsman and pioneer rhododendron hybridizer, who lived on the far west coast of Vancouver Island in a small coastal village called Ucluelet. It was from this remote fishing village that Fraser corresponded with the likes of John Blair of Pennsylvania and Joe Gable in the eastern United States. Bill was ardently involved in promoting the importance of the contributions George Fraser made to rhododendron culture. He also managed to acquire the correspondence that passed between George Fraser and Joe Gable and contributed the 62 letters to the British Columbia Archives.

In 1889, the city of Victoria hired the noted landscape architect, John Blair, to build and produce Beacon Hill Park, the primary park within the capitol city. Mr. Blair, once accepting the contract, immediately hired George Fraser as his foreman. A number of years ago, Bill was instrumental in having the city of Victoria lay a stone in the Park to commemorate George Fraser and his contributions.

Thanks in large measure to Bill's efforts, Ucluelet now celebrates George Fraser Day each year in May. Bill worked closely with the village fathers on this enterprise and at his urging, the five ARS chapters on Vancouver Island donated the hundreds of rhododendrons that are now planted along the roadside leading into the town.

When Bill decided to sell his house, he did not want to see his rare "Fraser" plants fall into uninterested or uncaring hands. Seven mature plants were moved to Beacon Hill Park. These "Fraser" rhododendrons include: R. 'John Blair', 'George Fraser', 'Albert Close', 'Mrs Jamie Fraser', 'Fraser Pink'*, 'Fraserii'*, and 'Maxie'. You can be sure the beauty of these plants, the history behind them, and loving care given them by Bill Dale will long be remembered, a living tribute to Bill and his love for rhododendrons.

* = not registered.