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Jim Hawes

  • Subject: Jim Hawes
  • From: "Bill Meyer" <njhosta@hotmail.com>
  • Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 09:35:05 -0400

Hi Dan, Clyde, and all,
         I can't agree more with what you say here.
         I first met Jim after travelling to a Delmarva Hosta Society to hear
him speak. His talk was to be about hosta sports, and there he introduced us
to the "Hosta Sports Wheel" that he had made up. Prior to this, nobody had
talked much about hosta sports and he really shed new light on the whole
concept. When hostas were still fairly new, misconceptions were the norm. It
took a while to become clear that they were so different from other plants in
that they sported with such frequency and variety. Jim was the first to
recognize this and begin talking about it. He created his Sports Wheel, and
later this was expanded to a series of Wheels which gathered the information
on every hosta known to have sported. He wrote several fine scientific
articles for The Hosta Journal in an effort to explain to all of us how
complex the business of sporting truly was. He was the spark that lit the
         He worked at the US Department of Agriculture at Beltville, Md. and
was fond of telling the story of playing ping-pong with Haig Derman and other
famous plant scientists of his day. His exploits with the USDA took him to
many parts of the world, and he was fluent in seven languages. One story
involved going to Laos (Laotian was one of those languages) during the Vietnam
War to head up an effort to save rice crops for our Laotian friends. They were
successful in using DDT to save the crops from an insect infestation that
would have meant starvation for many, and Jim was highly regarded by the
Laotian people for what he did there. He headed up similar missions to African
and South American countries. Though Jim did not pursue a PhD himself, he
found himself in charge of numerous ones in his career at the USDA. After
leaving the USDA, he took to raising snapdragons for the cut-flower industry,
managing several large greenhouses full of them with little or no help.
        He was a hands-on, do-it-yourself sort of guy with little fear about
tackling new projects and more than a little old-fashioned pioneer spirit. He
was the first (I think) to start up his own home hosta tissue culture lab at
his tree farm in the Western Maryland mountains. He freely taught anyone who
was interested how to do the same. He would share the things he learned with
any who would ask, and was generous to a fault. He did some hybridizing work
with hostas and raised some very nice ones along the way, although they have
not made it into the trade very much as yet. We'll see them someday, I think.
        Jim was feisty and lovable in a grandfatherly sort of way, and an
inspiration to many of us who knew him to delve a little further into the
scientific side of hostas. He was straightforward and honest, and you always
knew where you stood with him. He was a great friend and mentor to many of us
in the Eastern half of the country, and was best friends with another hosta
legend - AHS founder Alex Summers. Among his many friends he counted Pete Ruh,
Ran Lydell, Mary Chastain, Bette Comfrey, and Bill Nash. He had had several
heart attacks and was fighting a slowly spreading and painful cancer for
years. His sense of loyalty knew no bounds, and he spent the last years of his
life caring for the wife he had separated from as she deteriorated slowly from
Alzheimer's Disease. His garage still housed the car that belonged to the son
he lost years ago, that he just couldn't bear to get rid of. He always
intended to restore it someday, but never seemed to get around to it. He was
also one of the worst cooks I've known, but we would never tell him that.
       I was able to visit him twice, once with Dan, and both were memorable
trips. I was hoping to see him again this summer on the way to the national
convention, but that wasn't to be.
       The world is a little less without Jim than it was while he was a part
of it.
                                    ......Bill Meyer

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