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These days the word 'celebrity' is thrown around indiscriminately and we have become use to our 'celebrities' disappointing us; we have become inured to bad or uncivil behavior from our idols.
Ralph Moore was a true horticultural celeb, a kind and humble man he dedicated his life to creating beautiful roses and lived his life dedicated to his passion. Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to find a calling that fulfills us the way breeding beautiful roses did for Ralph.
He once told an audience that he often dreamed of possible color crosses for new roses and kept a pad next to his bed so when he awoke he could write down the parents of the crosses he had dreamt before he forgot them.
Over the years it became almost a passion to make a pilgrimage to Visalia, California, Ralph's hometown, to visit him and explore his nursery first hand.
Ralph was generous with his knowledge openly sharing his experience freely with visitors to the point many a younger person was challenged to keep up with him. He often kept going well past the time when a normal person would have turned out the lights and returned home for dinner. Over his nearly 75 years of working with plants he developed ways for creating new hybrids that were out of the mainstream of current academic practices and felt it his responsibility to share that knowledge with a wide audience. Ralph saw a potential in roses that few have and felt it his duty to share freely with his fellow rosarians.
When the first discussions for establishing the Great Rosarians of the World Annual Lecture Series were taking place at The Huntington in the late '90s Ralph's name was placed on the short list for possible honorees. The GROW program was founded to honor the men and women who have made significant contributions our understanding, love, and application of our national flower. Candidates are evaluated on their scholarship, body of work, and public outreach programs promoting the hobby of rose growing. Once the series was inaugurated Ralph became our second honoree in 2002.
I remember a cold rainy day in late January with an auditorium full of devotees and Ralph at 95 years old giving a masterful program that would have depleted a younger man. He spoke of his life working with roses and his breakthrough with miniature roses in the 1950s. After nearly an hour and a half he then went on to share with us his plans for the future of his rose breeding program. He stated that he had enough seedlings in his refrigerator for another five years and plans to create more beautiful roses in the future. After his program Ralph continued on his feet answering questions from the audience and greeting friends.
Ralph Moore exemplified what we had hoped the Great Rosarian should be. I was just one of many who joined his fellow Visialians who gathered to celebrate Ralph's one-hundredth birthday in 2007. What impressed me more that the world famous rosarians attending were his fellow Visialians who shared their respect and love for this kind and gentle man. The men and women who came into daily contact with this man one after another came forward and told stories of his kindnesses and generosity of sprit. Many of his fellow citizens were surprised by the adulation Ralph received from his fellow rosarians but the true test of his character was the honor and respect he received from his hometown.
Ralph Moore lived his passion for roses and for that we will continue to honor and love him.
Shannon Curator of Roses
The Huntington Botanical Gardens
San Marino, California
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