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[Aroid-l] The Death of Guanghua Zhu, my student.

  • Subject: [Aroid-l] The Death of Guanghua Zhu, my student.
  • From: Thomas.Croat@mobot.org
  • Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 20:02:24 -0600

Dear Aroiders:


            Having just received a couple of messages from some of you on Aroid-L I realize that in my grief I did not send a global message to those of you on the list.  I did immediately send out a message to a group called Aroiders but curiously got few responses and I suspect that this is because the list consists mostly of students of Araceae and most of these people have changed their e-mail address.  Suffice it to say that I regret not writing earlier.  Guanghua died on November 2nd and had been in the hospital since he arrived back early from China at the end of September.  I think many of you knew that he was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer two years ago.  He was given only a 30% chance of survival but was as strong as a bull ox, taking the radiation and chemo in stride, coming back into work and remaining productive.  However, toward the end of his radiation treatment his lungs were so inflamed that he had difficulty breathing.  He wanted to return to China with his son of 3 years (at that time).  He brought me all his manuscript, photos, reviews of his Revision of Dracontium and left them with me making me promise to get it finished and published.  I did promise and my thoughts at the time were that he was saying his final goodbye, that he was going home to Inner Mongolia to die.  I worked hard on the thesis, dealing with the many suggested changes and was in touch with him by e-mail on some of the questions I could not answer without his help. I am happy to report that his Revision of Dracontium was accepted and published in The Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Volume 91 (4) along with my Revision of Dieffenbachia of Central America.  I was happy to be able to share this last volume with his major work in Araceae. 


            Guanghua returned from China at the end of the summer and was in apparent good health and in good spirits, making big plans for the future.  Many friends had helped him with medicines in China and he thought that these had helped him improve his help.  It was not long after he returned that he was first told of a large tumor in his gut.  The doctors had deliberately withheld this from him, realizing that he had taken about all the treatments his body could handle but then there was an experimental drug made available that worked on only 10% of the people in the world but did work on him to reduce greatly the size of this tumor in his gut.  He was again optimistic.  When I saw him in Vienna in August during the International Botanical Congress he complained of stomach pains but he went on to China on a professional trip for the Flora of China Project at the Missouri Botanical Garden, of which he was Co-Director.  He had to cut his trip short owing to the serious pains in his abdomen.  He entered the hospital and spent most of October in the hospital, leaving only for a few days.  He has serious internal bleeding and finally went into the intensive care unit, never to emerge. 


            We had a fine Memorial Service for him here at the Garden with comments by Peter Raven, myself, his close buddy Hong Song and his wife Yuxing Feng.  I am preparing an obituary with the help of others who knew him and I appreciate hearing from those of you who knew him and reminded me of how wonderful a person he was.  He was so genuinely generous and friendly to all he met. I was astonished how everyone we met in China already knew him so well and always marveled at how this young Chinese lad rose from such poverty to become a world class botanist.  When he arrived in St. Louis and asked if I would be his major professor his English was not good and he had scarcely ever used a computer.  Before long he was showing me all kinds of things with the computer that I knew nothing about.  As Scott Hyndman stated, he was instrumental in setting up the IAS webpage, something that we are all so proud of now.  His revision of Dracontium was a major accomplishment.  It is a group that was exceedingly difficult to understand.  His work on the Flora of China Project was equally impressive.  His skillfull negotiations with Chinese authors were essential.  He regularly traveled to China with Director Peter Raven because Guanghua could make any trip easy.  He arranged two trips to China for me, making it possible for me to see many parts of China and see things that tourists are not allowed to see.  Visiting his family for a week in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia was one of the highlights of my life. I became a part of his family and he a part of mine. All of us who knew him will always miss him.

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