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In Memoriam


The Society is sad to announce the deaths of the following members and clematarians.

Mahala Huff - 1929 to 2017

John Hudson - 1926 to 2017

Sixten Widberg - 1935 to 2016

Howie Geist - 1929 to 2016

Ulf Svensson - 1935 to 2015

Eino Kala - 1925 to 2015

Brewster Rogerson - 1921 to 2015

Horst Weihrauch - 1939 to 2015

Bernard Allen - 1948 to 2014

Veijo Miettinen - 1945 to 2013

Harlan Hamernik - 1936 - to 2012

Geoff Tolver - 1927 - to 2012

Chris Graham - 1951 to 2012

Barry Toomey - to 2011

Dorothy Tolver - to 2011

Bengt Sundström - 1942 to 2010

Meelis Kaus - 1946 to 2009

Jessie Cohen - to 2009

Brother Stefan Franczak - 1917 to 2009

Bea Horn - 1922 to 2009

Masako Takeuchi - to 2008

Erich Pranno - 1930 to 2008

Dr. John Howells - 1918 to 2007

Formal tributes have been published in the following issues of Clematis International;

Mahala Huff, USA - 1929 to 2017

This is to let members know that Mahala Huff died on 28th April 2017, after a prolonged illness.

Many members will remember her with Richard, her husband, on a number of Society meetings. I have certainly traced them from Portland 2001, through Cambridge 2004 and Ireland 2006. I'm sure if I had the time I could find others.

Short, quietly spoken but with a feisty streak, Mahala was generous and considerate, as is Richard. She was a talented hair stylist and astute business woman, her ventures included running a number of hair salons and a catering company.

Richard and Mahala had been married nearly 60 years and had travelled the world together. They jointly created a non-profit called Hope Gardens Inc., which employed at-risk youth in the garden and donated produce to the Heights Emergency Food centre housed in Disciples Christian Church, of which they were both active members. Mahala was active in many other similarly focused projects.

The picture to your right shows Mahala and Richard during the Society conference and visit to Ireland in 2006.

The Society sends its condolences to Richard, her two sons, David and Thomas, and their families.
Mahala and Richard Huff during the Society vist to Ireland in 2006©Ken Woolfenden

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John Hudson during the Society visit to the Netherlands in 2003©Ken Woolfenden

John Hudson, Kwekerij
De Hessenhof nursery,
The Netherlands, 2003

John Hudson, Great Britain - 1926 to 2017

It is with sadness, though one might also consider it to bring a degree of release, that I announce the death on Monday 30th January 2017 of John Hudson. John was diagnosed with dementia some time ago and had lived in a nursing home for the last 4½ years. He died peacefully in the nursing home with his wife, Maureen, daughter Jane and granddaughter at his bedside.

John and Maureen were very active in the clematis world for many years. Whilst I understand it was John who had the initial passion for clematis, certainly I only knew of them as an equal pair, complementing each other in their knowledge and enthusiasm.

They held the British National Collection of Texensis Clematis for many years, no mean feat as they are not the easiest group to cultivate. They wrote about Texensis in Clematis International 2006, starting on page 81.

The photo to your left shows John in typical pose during the Society visit to the Netherlands in 2003, camera in one hand and looking earnestly at the surrounding plants. It was taken in the nursery Kwekerij De Hessenhof, owned by Hans and Miranda Kramer.

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Sixten Widberg, Sweden - 1935 to 2016

Sixten Widberg, clematis enthusiast and breeder, died early in the morning of 2nd June 2016. He had been ill for a few months, though I understand had been quite active until a few weeks ago.

Sixten was well-known within the International Clematis Society, in fact he had been a member of the Society since it was founded by Raymond Evison in 1984. With his wife, Inger, Sixten came on many of the Society visits through the years, including the last one to Great Britain in 2015.

Sixten grew many clematis in his garden in Sweden, which the Society visited in 2007. He also bred clematis, though he was very modest about his achievements. Fiona has grown C. 'Hanna' - a viticella group clematis bred by Sixten and named after their daughter, Hanna-Louise - for a number of years and we have been very impressed by the quality of the plant - the flowers are bell-shaped, a beautiful light blue and it is very floriferous.

Sixten was also quite a character. He had a great sense of humour and, in spite of a difference of language, would joke with other members at any opportunity.

The Society and the clematis world is a lesser place without him. The Society send our condolences to his wife, Inger, his family and friends.
Sixten and Inger Widberg in their garden in Sweden in 2007©Ken Woolfenden

Sixten and Inger Widberg in their
garden in Sweden in 2007

Sixten Widberg enjoying a seat and drink in 2014 in the USA©Ken Woolfenden

Sixten Widberg enjoying a seat and
drink in 2014 in the USA


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Howie Geist, USA - 1929 to 2016

Howard Geist (usually known as Howie), husband of Sally Geist who was a Council Member of this Society for a number of years, died peacefully on 21st March 2016. He had been in poor health for some time.

Both Sally and Howie played prominent roles in the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, he being the Treasurer for many years.

The photo to your right was taken during the visit by the Society to Portland in 2010. Sally and Howie hosted a wonderful dinner in their garden for all attendees of the meeting. The evening included presenting Brewster Rogerson with a birthday cake to celebrate his forthcoming birthday. As they say, a good time was had by everyone.

The newspaper, "The Oregonian" published an obituary on in March 2016. It stated that a Memorial Celebration will be held towards the end of April at the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall because, apparently, "Howie liked it there". I can't think of a better location!
Sally and Howie Geist, Portland, 2010©Ken Woolfenden

Sally and Howie Geist hosting dinner for the Society during our meeting in Portland in 2010


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Ulf Svensson, Sweden - 1935 to 2015

Ulf Svensson was born on 5th February 1935 and died on 11th October 2015 after a short stay in hospital.

Ulf Svensson and Werner Stastny worked together on the visit by the Society to Sweden in 1989. With lecturers from Great Britain, Latvia and Sweden and an itinerary very much in the spirit of Carl von Linné, it was a great success.

Ulf and Werner were also involved in the planning of the first visit by the Society to Latvia and Estonia in 1992. It was a major success, most of the members who took part knew very little of Latvian or Estonian clematis and clematis breeders and we were amazed at seeing so many cultivars that we had never come across before.

Ulf and Werner maintained good contacts in Latvia and Estonia and in 2013 they both visited Estonia again to present Erika Mahhov and Aili Kivistik with Golden Clematis Awards from the Society.
Ulf Svensson, 2003©Werner Stastny

Ulf Svensson, 2003


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Eino Kala, Estonia - 1925 to 2015

Eino Kala, Estonian clematis breeder, was born on 12th January 1925 and died on 1st June 2015, aged 90.

The Society visited Eino and his garden in Tapa during our visit to Estonia in 2005. At that time Eino had been working with clematis for 30 years and breeding clematis for at least 20 years. You can find a description of our visit, written by Gerhart Kölle, in Clematis International 2006, on page 114.

As well as being a fine clematis breeder, Eino Kala was an inventor. He showed us two devices that he had built, one for increasing the speed of seed germination and the other for “injection” feeding clematis plants. Jon Gooch wrote about it in Clematis International 2006, page 114. Roy Nunn was also very interested in the Seed Germinator. He built his own device and ran a number of trials. He spoke about building and testing the device in Clematis International 2007, starting on page 32.

From correspondence with Duncan Donald, International Clematis Registrar, it's obvious Eino Kala was a very discerning breeder, only registering cultivars he thought worthy. He has left a legacy of some very high quality clematis.
Eino Kala and Aime Kivistik, Estonia, 2005©Ken Woolfenden

Eino Kala and Aime Kivistik, Estonia, 2005


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Brewster Rogerson, USA - 1921 to 2015

I am very sad to report the death of Brewster Rogerson. He was 94. His physical health had been declining for some time although mentally he was as sharp as ever. Relatively recently he had moved into a hospice. His last and farewell visit to the Rogerson Clematis Collection was on 25th February this year. His health deteriorated as his time approached and he died peacefully at 06:00 on 26th May 2015.

Brewster had been a member of this Society from its inception in 1984. He was made an Honorary Fellow in 2002.

Anyone who attended any of the early meetings will probably remember Brewster, always smartly dressed, a very good speaker and with quite forthright opinions. But other will know him for the 100 Clematis of the Month which he described over the years. He was one of the original authors, taking over the responsibility to produce a new description every month for many years.

Sadly, Brewster's vision started to decline and he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. He managed to continue writing Clematis of the Month with the help of various friends but by the middle of 2005 he decided he could not continue. Using a screen and keyboard was becoming increasingly difficult, but more important to Brewster, he was unable to do the background research that was so essential to him. Fortunately for all of us he did manage one final piece, C. 'Duchess of Waverly' published in March 2015, and that completed his 100th report. It was very fitting since Brewster always said it was his favourite.

Brewster was an amateur clematarian but in many ways his knowledge of clematis rivalled the top international experts. He believed in understanding clematis cultivars by growing them and by doing extensive research of available literature and other information sources. His academic background meant he was dedicated and detailed in this approach.

His interest in clematis started around 1973 or 74 when he bought his first four clematis. He wanted to find out how to grow them but soon realized most books contained the same information. He continued his research and also bought more plants until, by 1981, he had over 100 different cultivars. He always said he had no intention of starting a collection - it just happened.

Over the years Brewster amassed probably the best clematis collection in the USA. Fiona interviewed him in May 2005 (see Clematis International 2006, page 149) and he said he thought he now had some 900 plants representing 500 different cultivars.

This collection has been looked after and enhanced by the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection at Luscher Farm, Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA, curator Linda Beutler, since December 2005.

Whilst health issues meant that Brewster was unable to be as active in the clematis world as he used to be for the last few years, we have lost a remarkable figure and are all lessened for this.

Brewster with Fiona Woolfenden in 2005©Ken Woolfenden

Fiona Woolfenden with Brewster Rogerson, Joy Creek Nursery, Portland, Oregon, USA, 2005


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Horst Weihrauch, Germany - 1939 to 2015

I am very sad to report the death of Horst Weihrauch.

The earliest Society records that I have date from 1994 and already show Horst Weihrauch as a member. In 1997 he volunteered to take on the role of Treasurer of the Society and he remained in this post until 2011, when he relinquished the post for health reasons.

As Treasurer, Horst was meticulous in both record keeping and presentation of the Society Accounts. He provided continuity in post during an important period in the history of the Society. He also introduced PayPal as a method for members to renew their membership, quite a revolutionary approach at the time and something which has certainly allowed the Society to gain and retain members across the world.

As well as the post of Treasurer, Horst played an active role in the Society including organizing, with others, a meeting in Germany in 2000 and one in Belgium in 2011. I believe Horst was particularly pleased with the Gala Dinner that he arranged in Belgium, at the Priorij Corsendonk. On arrival we were told that we would experience dinner as the monks would have done centuries ago when this was a thriving monastery. We were provided with monks robes and ate using wooden spoons. It was a evening I still remember very fondly, as I'm sure others do.

That was the last Society meeting that Horst attended, though he took time out to drive down to Veitshöchheim one day during the Society visit to Germany in 2013 to meet us in the Trials and Display Garden of Klaus Körber.

In 2010, Horst was given a Golden Clematis Award by the Society, for services over many years.

The Society sends condolences to his partner, Marianne Beyer, and his family.

When Horst received his Golden Clematis Award, he said that he did not want a photo to be posted on this website. As a mark of respect for his wishes, I will not be posting a photo here either.


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Bernard Allen, Great Britain - 1948 to 2014

I am saddened to announce that Bernard Allen died unexpectedly on Saturday 29th March 2014, a few months before his 68th birthday. Earlier in the day he had been at a meeting of the local British Clematis Society group and had been laughing and joking as normal.

Bernard and his wife, Rosemarie, attended many Society events, including Germany 2013 last year. Always happy and joking, with a smile on his face and usually a camera around his neck, Bernard was very gregarious. However his manner could easily disguise his extensive knowledge and experience of clematis. And his camera was not for show, he was a very good photographer. He moved into the digital world relatively early and embraced this new technology, teaching himself how to use it to best effect.

Bernard played an important part in the British Clematis Society where he was a Publicity Officer for many years and recently the Vice Chairman.

The picture to your right was taken during one of the visits to a private garden during Belgium 2011, with Bernard in a typically impish pose.

The Society sends our sincere condolences to his wife, Rosemarie, their children, other family members and all their many friends.

Bernard Allen during Belgium 2011©Ken Woolfenden

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Veijo Miettinen, Finland - 1945 to 2013

Once again it is my sad duty to inform you of the death on Thursday 3rd October of one of our members, Veijo Miettinen of Finland. He had been in poor health for some time and in hospital for the last few weeks.

Veijo attended a number of Society events and conferences including Cambridge, UK in 2004 and Ireland in 2006. Linda Beutler, our President, reminded me that he turned out to be quite a croquet player during our visit to Thorncroft Clematis in 2004.

The picture to your right shows Veijo and his wife, Tuovi, receiving thanks and a gift from the then president, Szczepan Marczyński, for their part in organizing and running the Finland visit in 2005.

The Society sends our sincere condolences to his wife, Tuovi, and other family and friends.

Veijo and Tuovi Miettinen during Finland 2005©Ken Woolfenden

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In remembrance of Harlan Hamernik

[Editor's Note: My thanks to Deborah Hardwick for highlighting this news item and compiling the tribute below.]

In October 2012, Harlan Hamernik, 76, plantsman and owner of Bluebird Nursery in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, died unexpectedly at home in an explosion.

The term "plantsman" is normally reserved for someone with an uncanny knowledge of plants that transcends an economic or scientific interest. Those who knew Harlan Hamernik professionally and personally say he met this definition.

"Hamernik was a true champion of plant life native to the Great Plains, who developed untold numbers of cultivars now commonly grown across the country" said Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator at the Denver Botanical Garden. The garden's collection includes about 600 plants developed by Bluebird Nursery.

Harlan worked with clematis, a fact not widely known outside of the USA, perhaps unjustifiably. His selection of species clematis were sold around the world. In addition to a good range of cultivars, Harlan propagated C. fruiticosa ' Mongolian Gold', C. angustifolia and C. columbiana var. tenuiloba. He is also credited with raising C. integrifolia 'Mongolian Bells', a very compact form.

I contacted Harlan's wife recently by email and she replied, remembering Szczepan Marczyński, a previous president of this Society, in an email.

"He made a very enjoyable visit to Bluebird once and communicated with us by email. Bluebird purchased rooted cuttings of clematis from him and we made great use of his company's website for descriptions and cultural info. I think Szczepan and Harlan first met at an IPPS meeting. Thank you for contacting us. Harlan had a great many friends in many niches of horticulture, and is missed."

Harlan Hamernik

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Geoffrey Tolver - 1927 to 2012

Unfortunately the New Year got off to a sad start with the news that Geoffrey Tolver, father of Ruth Gooch of Thorncroft Clematis, died on 30th December 2012. He had been in poor health for some time and his condition had deteriorated significantly over the last few weeks.

Thorncroft Clematis Nursery was started in 1985 by Ruth Gooch and her parents, Geoff and Dorothy Tolver, though it didn't begin selling to the public until 1989. From the early days both Geoff and Dorothy took an active part in the nursery, and Geoff could often be found in one of the tunnels, potting on clematis.

Geoffrey Tolver was interested in breeding clematis and has three registered cultivars to his name, C. 'Best Wishes', C. 'Fond Memories' and C. 'Geoffrey Tolver', the latter a nice complement to C. 'Dorothy Tolver', raised by Jon Gooch.

I leave you with the photo to your right, which I think is very appropriate. It was taken at an open day at Thorncroft Clematis in April 2001 and shows Geoff giving an expert demonstration of how to take cuttings.

The Society sends our condolences to Ruth, Jon, Peter and Gill, William and other family and friends.

Geoff Tolver demonstrating taking cuttings at Thorncroft Clematis, 2001

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Chris Graham - 1951 to 2012

From Peter Keeping in Canada I have received news that Chris Graham, past member and early Council Member of this Society, died suddenly on 14th January 2012.

chris graham©The Hamilton SpectatorChris Graham worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Ontario, Canada for nearly 30 years, rising to the position of Director of Horticulture. The Royal Botanical Gardens was a member of this Society from very early days and Chris became their representative. He served the Society as a Council Member for a number of years.

Raymond Evison, our founder, says that he believes it was Mrs Anne Harvey, one of the founder members of this Society, who brought Chris and him together by encouraging their interest in Clematis. Her Clematis Collection was eventually donated to the RBG and Chris Graham created the Mrs Anne Harvey Clematis Garden to house it.

Unfortunately the Society lost contact with him around 2002/3, around the time he left RBG.

He was known at RBG as a passionate plantsman and gifted speaker. He continued giving lectures and speaking at garden clubs after he had left RBG and was a favourite choice for all venues. Over the last number of years he was also developing a collection of special plants at Kimberley Cottage Garden.

The Society sends our condolences to his family and friends.

[Editor's note: I would like to thank "The Hamilton Spectator" for allowing use of information in their obituary, also for use of their file photo.]


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Barry Toomey - to 2011

Barry Toomey as a Dublin Tour Guide, Ireland 2006Not withstanding the New Year sentiments above, it is also with great sadness that I report news of the death on Friday 16th December 2011 of Barry Toomey, husband of our Honorary Member, Mary Toomey. He had been seriously ill for some time.

Barry will be known to many members, but particularly to those who attended our very successful meeting in Ireland in 2006. A naturally quiet and unassuming person, he was however always around to help with the organization.

His role was not restricted to this and he gave a number of us an excellent, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable guided tour of Dublin City, as the photo to your right shows.

But perhaps his "finest hour" was our evening at the old Jameson Distillery, when he not only introduced the entertainment but demonstrated his own dancing skills, as shown in the two photos below.

Barry's death comes only a few weeks since Mary herself underwent a major operation.

The Society sends it's sincerest condolences to Mary and her family at this most distressing time and also our very best wishes to Mary for her own speedy and full recovery.


       

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Dorothy Tolver - to 2011

It is with great sadness that I tell you all of the death on Tuesday 26th April 2011 of Dorothy Tolver, wife of Geoffrey Tolver, and the mother of Ruth Gooch of Thorncroft Clematis. Her health had not been good for a number of years and she had required increasing levels of help and assistance. However recently her condition had deteriorated seriously. There is perhaps some consolation that finally she is now at peace.

If you have ever visited Thorncroft Clematis you may well have met Dorothy. She would often be seen around the nursery, helping out in the sales tunnel or giving advice. And even though she required some assistance, she was keen to meet and greet all the attendees of the last Society meeting in Great Britain, Cambridge 2004, when we visited the nursery, which is when the photo to your right was taken.

And even if none of the above applies to you, you may still feel you know her through C. 'Dorothy Tolver', a beautiful early large flowered cultivar.

The Society sends it's sincerest condolences to Geoffrey, Ruth, Jon, William and Peter.

Dorothy Tolver in family group, 2004
Dorothy Tolver with her husband Geoffrey next to her, also (right to left) Ruth, Jon (nearly hidden behind Geoffrey), Peter and Gill

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Bengt Sundström - 1942 to 2010

Bengt Sundström at Swedish Meeting in August 2007It is with the greatest regret that I have to inform you of the peaceful death on Tuesday 12th October 2010 of Bengt Sundström, member of this Society. He had lived with cancer for a number of years.

Bengt was married to Karin, the daughter of the late Magnus Johnson. They had two sons and a daughter.

Bengt served as a Council Member of this Society from 2002 until recently. He was also responsible with Werner Stastny, for the Swedish Clematis Society for a number of years. But he is possibly best known within the international clematis world for the major part he played in getting the research of Magnus Johnson published in the definitive book, "Släktet Klematis" and subsequently the English version, "The Genus Clematis".

The Society sends it's sincerest condolences to Karin, Anders, Anna, Peter and their families.


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Meelis Kaus - 1946 to 2009

Meelis Kaus (centre) in Japan, 1997It is with great sadness that I have to start this New Year with news that Meelis Kaus, husband of Külvi Kaus, the secretary of the Estonian Clematis Club, died in June 2009. My thanks to Erika Mahhov for the following obituary.

"On 5th June 2009, after a long and exhausting disease, Meelis Kaus passed away.

Besides working as a distinguished engineer for some 40 years, he devoted his free time to gardening. At his recently built house he established a beautiful garden, a perfect setting for their Clematis collection. His favourites were a new Dutch variety, C. 'Fascination' and florida-type C. 'Fond Memories', received as a gift from the Gooch family.

Together with his wife Külvi, Meelis was a member of International Clematis Society. His fluent English and approachable style were of great help at many International Clematis Society events, be it in Estonia, Japan, Holland or elsewhere. The Estonian Clematis Club and the International Clematis Society send their condolences to his wife, Külvi, his two sons and their families and all the friends left behind."

Erika Mahhov

The picture shows Meelis in happier days during the first Society visit to Japan in 1997. From left to right around the table are Hans Ruedi Horn-Gfeller, Külvi Kaus, Meelis Kaus, the late Uno Kivistik and the late Erich Pranno, with Werner Stastny standing up on the right.


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Jessie Cohen - to 2009

It is with great sadness that I report the death of one of our members, Jessie Cohen of the USA. Jessie will be known to many of you from Japan 2008, which she attended with her partner, Rich Galloway. The Society sends its sincere condolences to Rich.

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Brother Stefan Franczak - 1917 to 2009

brother stefan franczak with szczepan marczynski, 2000It is with great sadness that I report the death, Monday 6th July 2009, of Brother Stefan Franczak, Jesuit monk, internationally acclaimed clematis breeder and Honorary Fellow of this Society. His health had been gradually deteriorating over the last few years.

Brother Stefan Franczak began collecting clematis in 1960 but didn't start breeding them until the early 1980s. Since that time he has bred and introduced a great many clematis. Victoria Matthews, writing in Clematis International 2003, analyzed the International Clematis Register and reported that he was the fifth most prolific breeder of clematis with 66 entries in the Register.

A gentle and very modest man, a number of members of this Society had the pleasure of meeting him in the garden of the Jesuit College where he lived for the majority of his life, during visits to Poland in 2000 (which is when the picture of Brother Stefan Franczak with Szczepan Marczyński to your right was taken) and again in 2002. In was in this garden and the adjoining glasshouse that he produced his marvelous clematis.

In March this year Brother Stefan Franczak was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, one of Poland's highest orders.

Clematis International has featured a number of articles about Brother Stefan Franczak and his clematis, in the 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009 issues.

Funeral of Brother Stefan Franczak©Szczepan MarczynskiA service, followed by his funeral, was held in Warsaw on Monday 13th July 2009. Szczepan Marczyński, past president of this Society and a friend of Brother Stefan Franczak for many years, represented the International Clematis Society and also laid a wreath to honour him in the name of the Society, seen here in this photo on the floor in front of the coffin. It was very appropriate that both the wreath and all the other floral tributes seen here are composed of clematis.

The wreath from the Society was accompanied by a card with the words:-

The International Clematis Society pays tribute to our Honorary Fellow, Brother Stefan Franczak.

A gentle, modest man, he brought joy across the world through the many beautiful and garden-worthy clematis that he bred and shared with others. They are his true and lasting legacy.

A full tribute to Brother Stefan Franczak is published in Clematis International 2010. Also and in honour of this remarkable man, the Clematis of the Month for August 2009 is a particularly good cultivar of his, C. 'Emilia Plater'.


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Bea Horn - 1922 to 2009

I have to inform you of the death, on 1st January 2009, of Bea Horn, mother of Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Clematis, Portland, Oregon, USA. Bea's health had not been good for some time but she kept her spirits high, as Fiona and I saw when we visited Portland in September last year. Bea attended quite a number of Society events until relatively recently, and many of you will have met her. She was a thoughtful and very kind person, with a wonderful sense of humour.

The Society sends it's condolences to Maurice, his sisters and all of her friends.


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Masako Takeuchi - to 2008

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you all of the death of Masako Takeuchi, clematis breeder and grower in her own right as well as being the wife of clematis breeder and grower Hiroshi Takeuchi. She had been in poor health for some time. She died late 2008.

We first met Masako Takeuchi when they took part in the visit of the Society to Sweden and Estonia in 1998. My memory is of someone who was immaculately dressed, whether formal and casual, and always had a broad smile across her face.

Masako Takeuchi bred over 40 different cultivars, a number of which are available outside of Japan. We have C. 'Rooran' growing in a pot on the patio and it rewards us every year with a wonderful display of wavy edged, pink flowers which seem to go on for ever.

The Society send it's condolences to Hiroshi Takeuchi and his family. There will be a short tribute to her and her clematis in the next issue of our journal, Clematis International 2009.


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Erich Pranno - 1930 to 2008

Erich Pranno©Aanika - his daughter

It is with sadness that I report the death on 9th March 2008 of Erich Pranno of Estonia. Erich was known to members of this Society through our visits to Estonia and his attendance at other events. In the clematis world, Erich Pranno is best known for his beautiful viorna cross, C. 'Kaiu', though in fact he bred and selected many others.

I thank Erika Mahhov of Estonia for her tribute to Erich Pranno, published in abbreviated form below. Her complete tribute will be published in the forthcoming issue of our journal, Clematis International 2008. I also thank his daughter, Aanika, for the picture of Erich, taken in the summer of 2007 with one of his selections, with either C. mandshurica or C. recta in the foreground.

The Society sends it's sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Erich Pranno - 13 March 1930 - 9 March 2008

Just as the first buds are opening in early springtime the enthusiastic Clematarian and collector, Erich Pranno, left us after a severe disease, a few days before his 78th birthday.

Erich was born in a farmer's house in Kaiu village, Estonia. He was orphaned at two years old when his mother passed away but was fortunate to find a good and kind stepmother and later had twin brother and sister.

Erich's schooling in Kaiu was short-lived as he had to stand in for his sick father on their farm. After military service, he studied at Sompa Mining School, but started to work as a refrigerator mechanic in the local collective farm. Erich was good at what he did, but his heart was pulling him to work with nature, animals and plants.

After establishing a family and buying a house of his own in his home village in 1960, he turned to gardening. His garden, nominated for several best gardens awards, contained both clematis and other interesting and rare plants. Erich also kept bees, raising parrots, and was also a passionate hunter. He was the first person in Estonia to raise German long-haired bassets, an activity which his daughter continues to do. Everything he ever did, Erich did with thoroughness and commitment.

Clematis remained his favourites and he amassed a collection of some 300 hybrids, one of the largest in the then USSR. he was a founding member of Estonian Clematis Club in 1987, the same year when he received a service medal award from the Estonian Horticultural Society. With Uno Kivistik, he was one of the leading promoters of clematis in Estonia. Together they arranged exhibitions in Estonia and other countries and visited internationally recognized Clematis specialists. As a member of the Estonian Clematis Club he participated in the meetings of the International Clematis Society, be it in Germany, Sweden, England, Japan or elsewhere.

Erich Pranno tried his hand also in breeding new Clematis. From seed of C. 'Alionushka', he got differing seedlings but with integrifolia characteristics, being hardy and resistant to diseases as well as easy to take care of. They became quite popular and were known as "Pranno's hybrids".

Erich was world-famous for his viorna-group hybrid C. 'Kaiu', with its small white urn-shaped nodding flowers, named after his home village. It came from seedlings he obtained from Ukrainian Nikitsky Botanic Garden. He grew these and made a selection in 1982. This hybrid was unknown internationally until some 10 years later when the Soviet "iron curtain" had fallen and the International Clematis Society visited Estonia in 1992. Apart for the beautiful blossom, the cultivar is highly appreciated for its vigorous and hardy growth, and strong health. In our garden, the plant flowers from July to October, almost until the first snows. With this extraordinary hybrid, Erich Pranno remains in the memories of all the Clematis-lovers of the world. As a person, Erich was a humorous, friendly and sparkling companion, with lot of knowledge and experience. He was a wonderful father and the best grandfather for his grandchild. His daughter, sister and brother and their families will mourn for him, as well as his relatives and friends and all Estonian Clematarians.

Erika Mahhov


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Dr. John Howells - 1918 to 2007

Dr. John Howells©Wim Snoeijer

It is with great sadness that I report the death on Monday 12th November 2007 of Dr. John Howells M.D., F.L.S..

John Howells was a man of many skills. We know him as an eminent clematarian. He was a very early member of this Society and was our Editor for a number of years. He was a prolific author of clematis books and frequent contributor of articles to Clematis International, ranging from research into the first mention of clematis in a publication (by the Greek, Theophrastus) to the very practical subject of how to plant a clematis. He was an exceptional public speaker, witness the lecture he gave at our Conference in Cambridge in 2004 where he spoke for one hour completely without notes on "The Finding of Clematis Montana", such was John's knowledge and recall of the subject.

He was also prominent in the British Clematis Society, holding positions of Chair and also Editor.

But perhaps he should best be known as an enthusiastic and skillful grower of clematis in his large and beautiful garden near Colchester, Great Britain. He used his garden for research for many of his books, saying that he couldn't write about a clematis unless he'd grown it first. I remember visiting one time when it was planted with viticellas. On a subsequent visit a couple of years later virtually all had been taken out and replaced with montanas, ready for his next book.

And all this from a man who's career was in medical sciences. He was also a recognized expert in Italian opera and wrote a number of publications on the subject.

The picture to your right was taken by Wim Snoeijer in 2005 and shows John at work in his garden, specifically by his "wall of clematis". This wall, running the length of the property beside the road, was planted on both sides with clematis such that those behind would grow up and over, to meet those at the front. When in full bloom it was one of the most formidable displays of clematis one might find.

The Society sends its sincerest sympathy to Ola, his wife, and to his family.

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