Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Life Well Lived, Reflections on Jerry Barad and His Passing Today

Jerry on the back porch

Bea on the back porch

A ledebouria species I think Jerry got from the Huntington ISI program

Jerry loved variegated things, such as this Kalanchoe thyrsifolia

Impatiens mirabilis, Jerry loved anything with a caudex

One of his many perfectly grown specimens, in this case Haworthia truncata

Another Haworthia species whose name escapes me

Haworthia with almost glass like leaf surfaces

One of Jerry's specimen plants, a mammillaria in a show pot

Haworthia, probably a form of cymbiformis, 

Jerry was extremely proud of this Aloe descoingsii, which was grown from the type specimen from which the species was described.  I have a single plant he gave me from this incredible specimen. 

Jerry was into all kinds of plants and here he is with ripe bananas from a plant he had

Jerry getting ready to enjoy the fruits of his labor

The huge and beautiful koi in Jerry and Bea's pond.  He rigged a motion activated water sprinkler to keep the herons away

Peony Bartzella, a wonderful plant not far from the back door of their house

Closeup of Bartzella

"Valley View" the view from the back porch

I just got the news today that Jerry Barad passed this morning.  Its one of those moments I have known would come one day but have always dreaded.   I first met Jerry and Bea, his lovely and gracious wif,e when I worked for the New York Botanical Garden as Desert Plant Curator back in the early 90's.  Jerry was on the board of the Desert Plant Committee.  I found out that he also went to Cornell University (long before I did of course) and was immediately impressed by his intelligence, forthright manner of speaking, and kindness.  I had the pleasure of visiting Jerry and Bea at their home in New Jersey many times, most recently this past fall.  We would always have a nice lunch (both Bea and Jerry were excellent cooks) and then Jerry and I would go look at the plants in his two greenhouses and in his gardens.   He was very generous and I have many plants from him, including countless haworthias, gasterias, and some very special things such as a massive Sanseveria kirkii (giant green form) which I have blogged about before (the one with the very impressive flower heads), a piece of the type specimen of Aloe descoingsii, and an interesting succulent senecio he collected in Yemen, among many others.  When going to visit him I often had to think hard about what I could bring him, after all what do you bring to the guy that has just about everything?   I did however manage to come up with some things he enjoyed, such as Tinnea barbata which he would plant out for the summer in his garden, and he always enjoyed impatiens that could resow, so in the last couple of years I took and planted some Impatiens bicolor and namchabarwensis for him.   One year he was growing all sorts of heirloom tomatoes, in fact we went to a tomato tasting event at Rutgers I think that summer.  I saved seeds of the ones I liked best and grew some of them two years ago in my garden.  They were far better than the ones I grew this past summer from a commercial packet, and so I will grow the ones from Jerry again this year.  
Bea and Jerry were two of the most optimistic people I have ever known and I actually confessed to him this past fall when my wife and I last saw him how much I admired his attitude about life.  He was, of course, devastated by the recent loss of Bea, whom he had known since they were teenagers. Yet despite this incredible loss and some serious leg pain he soldiered on, and with the able assistance of a young man, Derrick, who helped Jerry care for his gardens and greenhouse plants, he lived as Bea had told him: Life is for the living!  
He and Bea were both fortunate to have lived a long life and to have traveled extensively, and they had many friends.  They were not the type to sit at home in front of the TV, that was for sure.  It seemed they were always attending plant meetings, and recently they were also in a local group led by a rabbi they both admired where they just discussed interesting stuff.  He was a true intellectual, and published among other things the only paper I have ever seen on how to pollinate stapeliads, a favorite of his (hint, it isn't easy).  
They both were very happy for me when I finally got married and they quite liked my wife as well. On one visit we all went to the local Asian market where they could pick my wife's brains about what was good to get there.   I also brought a few other folks periodically to their house and it was pretty much guaranteed to be a great day of course.  Good company, good food, good conversations, cool plants, and some awesome long haired friendly cats, what else could one want from life?  
I and my wife will miss the wonderful visits to "Valley View" as they called their home, being able to tour the garden in the back with the huge fragrant brugmansias that he overwintered in the garage that adjoined the greenhouse, having to watch "feeding time" for the sheep they raised (and I am allergic to), tasty lunches often involving the aforementioned sheep, tours of the greenhouse and discussions on how he figured out ways to propagate special variegated plants without losing the variegation, and passing plants back and forth.  I have a cutting of Brillantaisia subulugurica sitting in front of me right now that he gave me from our last visit.  I first brought this species into the US from a South African nursery back in the early 90s and I periodically would lose in winter but Jerry always had a big one in the greenhouse from cuttings I gave him early on.  I liked  watching my wife get excited when Jerry let her feed the huge koi they have in their pond, and watching her discuss cooking with Bea while Jerry and I would toddle off to the greenhouses to see what neat things were in bloom.   Ierry taught me that not all stapeliads smell like dead meat, there are two species that are actually pleasantly fragrant.  Jerry was also one of the first to get the amazing intersectional peony "Bartzella" when it came out and a few years ago we happened to visit when it was in perfect bloom.   I brought one this year when I came across it at a good price, remembering what we had seen at Valley View.   
On our last visit Jerry took out the eulogy he wrote for Bea when she passed and read it to myself and Grace. It was a very touching account of how they first met, he was going on wildflower walks and she asked if she could come along.   The rest is history, a love story that was the real thing, and now he walks among the wildflowers with his beloved Bea, together again.   
I shall never forget the kindness you and Bea showed me, the lessons I learned from the both of you about what it means to live a well lived life.  I will miss you dear friend, until we meet again.


Panayoti Kelaidis said...

What a fabulous tribute to a great man! I knew Jerry for a long time as well, and visited his Sargeantsville garden a few times and was dazzled by it--but not nearly as often as you did, Ernie. You really captures a glimmer of that remarkable man, his sweet wife and his magnificent life. I know it wasn't easy to write it like that--at length and so beautifully. I'm very glad you did.

As they say in the Orthodox service "eternal be his memory": I know we two will remember the Barads powerfully and forever!

Indoorplantman said...

Please contact I'd like to put your comments on Dr.Barad in the Indoor Gardening Society of New York newsletter (facebook\indoorgardennyc). Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this wonderful tribute to my Dad and Mom. Thanks also for taking the time to attend the funeral last week. It was good to speak with you there. Life is a tapestry and we are all threads in it. These two are gone but their memories still bind us.
Once more thanks,

Elena Ioganson said...

Thank you, Ernie. I always like to read personal experiences about travelling to such distant places as Taiwan. Very interesting are the details of your trip. Waiting for the continuation :-).