Gardening GlimpsesBy MRS. HERMAN MCKENZIE,
I talked with Ann Hibbs for two hours this afternoon, remembering Rod. She told of his motivational tactics with her: “Ann, here’s a list of things the regional vice president is supposed to do. Do them and you will be the best RVP Southern Region has ever had.”
I can witness that she was. And then he said, “I know you already know how to write. I’m counting on you to put out the best regional newsletter we have ever had,” and she’s done that, too. Rod expected the best of you, and somehow you could not let him down.
Whenever he could come to Clinton to the CMDS show, I’d pair the slowest, most nit-picking judges we had with Rod, and then stand back to watch as the usually hesitant, slow-deciding judges got a crash course in speed-judging, Rod Armstrong style. Ann also shared with me some of the things that he taught her about judging in tricky situations, and even how to judge classes of flowers you don’t grow much, which for Ann is miniatures.
I spent a long time talking with Ann on Sunday afternoon, both of us stopping to wipe tears away as I talked with her about something that is of serious concern - what is the Dallas-based Texas Daffodil Society going to do with the loss of two of their very different and equally valuable members in the same off season? With rumors of a possible national convention to be held in Dallas soon, how will they manage without the irrepressible Dottie Sable and the stalwart, knowledgeable good guy that Rod always was?
But I know this group, and soon you will, too. They learned from a pair who loved the ADS, and they will have to step up and take over. I know who you are, and Ann and I were taking names as we talked. You’ve set a tradition of excellence, in Southern Region but also across the ADS, for holding judging schools every year, in rotation (Not the set of three and now we’ll rest for some years that’s the normal.) And for unbelievable cooperative working with the Master Gardeners and the garden clubs, and youth programs and presentations at county fairs - nobody does it better. You just need to get ready, because the whole Daffodil World expects quality things from Dallas.
One of editor Jolene Laughlin’s great people skills as editor is knowing her crew. She knew how I would be writing through tears, and took over a couple of other of my jobs for this September issue, right at deadline. Because one of the things we learned from Rod Armstrong was that tears were nothing to be ashamed of.
Jaydee Ager posted the first response to the news of Rod’s death on Daffnet, which came as a surprise to everyone, because Rod, so open about his fight against lung cancer, chose last spring to keep to himself and his family the new enemy invading his weakened body. She spoke for all of us when she wrote simply, “I am devastated by this news, and so very, very sad.”
Ann Hibbs summed it up, I believe. “Through his knowledge and expertise, Rod inspired all of us to become better daffodil growers and exhibitors. He was a constant presence in the Texas Daffodil Society for many years, and will be missed by all who knew him. Godspeed, daffodil friend.”
A memorial Mass was held August 26 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, in Plano. The burial, most fittingly, will be at the private cemetery on the family farm near Covington, on September 9. Family and friends are welcome, as Rod will be laid to rest in those Virginia foothills which were always ultimately home to him, no matter how long he traveled the world for the daffodil and did yeoman-like work for the Texas Daffodil Society.