Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Remembering Doug

Reverend Douglas Seidel passed away three days ago, early on Saturday morning, October 3.  He leaves behind an army of friends and family ... and I am proud to count myself among his friends.

This is the only photo I can find of Doug and me.  It was taken in Lynchburg, in 2011.  That's Doug in the center of the back row.


I remember when I first heard about Doug.  I was reading In Search of Lost Roses by Thomas Christopher, not long after I discovered the wonders of old, unknown roses, some time in the early 2000s.  The author described how Doug, as a teen, partnered with Leonie Bell (who is not mentioned by name) to travel the Pennsylvania countryside to document and collect roses at abandoned sites and in cemeteries ... does this sound like someone else you know?

Photo of Doug with "Hollywood Pink Cluster" in 2001.
Photo by Peggy Cornett.


"Hollywood Pink Cluster"


I remember the first time that I saw Doug in person.  He was the banquet speaker at a district meeting of the ARS's Colonial District in Staunton, Virginia.  Doug's program was mesmerizing, and I remember sitting there in awe of the history of our repeat-flowering roses and their origins in the ever-blooming roses imported from China in the late 18th century.  I don't think that most of the audience that evening fully appreciated who he was or what he had to say.  

I did not approach Doug that evening, as I tend to get a bit tongue-tied when I'm around people that I admire.  I used to rationalize that it was best to remember a pleasant evening, rather than regret having said something completely stupid.  (I'm not so much like this anymore, thank goodness.)

A group of rose lovers, including Doug, Dennis Whetzel, and Peggy Cornett, in front of the "Crenshaw Musk Rose" at Hollywood Cemetery in 2001.
Photo by Kent Krugh.


"Crenshaw Musk Rose"


I remember when I first spoke to Doug.  It was the morning after that program in Staunton.  I was on the hotel elevator ... the elevator stopped at a lower floor, the door opened, and there was Doug.  I had been mentally kicking myself for passing on the chance to meet him in person the night before, and I was not going to let this new opportunity slip by.  I introduced myself, told him how much I loved his program, and we then spent the next two hours in the hotel lobby talking and getting acquainted.  I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

Doug and I exchanged contact information as we parted that day, and we promised to keep in touch.  He stubbornly refused to use computers, relying mostly on hand-written notes and phone calls.  I always had a notebook nearby and a pen in hand whenever I spoke to him, whether in person or on the phone, because I never knew what our conversations would be.  What to him may have been a tired story or insignificant fact, could be a valuable clue to to some mystery that I may have been thinking about.  I wanted to make certain that I remembered it all.

Doug with "Red Smith's Parish" at Presidents Circle, Hollywood Cemetery.
Photo by Kent Krugh.


"Red Smith's Parish"


Through my friendship with Doug, I have met many more like-minded rose people.  It is through him that I got to know the people at Monticello's Tufton Farm.  Doug was the force behind the Leonie Bell Noisette Garden, where I have been working for the past few years to help preserve the roses there.  Some of the plants in the Bell Garden were Doug's own, donated as a tribute to Mrs. Bell (he always called her Mrs. Bell), his mentor who nurtured that curious young man and helped him awaken a lifetime love of old roses.

Doug with 'Alba Odorata Bracteata' in Hollywood Cemetery, 2001.
Photo by Kent Krugh.


'Alba Odorata Bracteata'


I remember when Doug told me that he had been diagnosed with cancer ... an aggressive form of prostate cancer that had already spread to his bones.  He and I kept in touch regularly during that time, as I was a link to Tufton and to Hollywood Cemetery, and he listened intently as I told him of my work in both of those places.  He told me over and over of his experiences there and other places ... and I took notes.  

Doug had hoped to see the Bell Garden again, but he never did.  He took comfort in the fact that the rare roses planted there are safe, having been propagated and shared with individuals and nurseries.  (I still have a few roses there to propagate, which I hope to do in the next couple of weeks.)

Doug and the group with "Oak Avenue Tea" at Hollywood Cemetery in 2001, which he identified as 'William R. Smith'.
Photo by Kent Krugh.


"Oak Avenue Tea" ... aka, 'William R. Smith'


I remember one of the last times I talked to Doug.  It was in June of this year, after I sent him a surprise package full of roses and photos.  (He had been scheduled to speak at the rose festival at the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, but he had to cancel because of his health.  I was going to bring roses to him, unknown roses from my garden and from Hollywood Cemetery, for him to identify.)  He said that he was so excited to open that box ... full of old friends, as he called them.  One of the things he told me is that my "Tidewater Trail" is a rose that he has found in many places throughout his part of Pennsylvania.

Doug and Dennis Whetzel, identifying roses during the Open House at Tufton Farm, 2011.


I will remember Doug as a friend, a mentor, and a confidante ... someone from whom I learned so much, who awakened and nurtured my own love of roses and of discovery.  I will be with Doug's friends and family as we will gather this weekend, to remember him and to say goodbye.

I will ALWAYS remember Doug ... with my memories and notes, through continuing friendships, and with some of his roses that live in my garden ... and I will always think of him and smile.

30 comments:

  1. What a lovey tribute to your friend. I'm sorry for your loss. I'm happy for how he enriched your life and lit the path for you along the way, as you now do for rose newbies. It's a beautiful friendship in that way.
    I'm glad to have read this this morning as I'm feeling a bit defeated and restless. People living their lives following their passion is a very good thing.
    I'm also glad you changed your fear of saying something stupid to those you admire. I say stupid things to new, smart people all the time and my life is richer for it. Theirs just not might be :)

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    1. Thank you, Stephen.

      I believe that we meet people for a reason, and that's what has helped me get over the fear of stupid things I may say. Stupid or not, I'm going to step forward, introduce myself, and see where it takes me. So far, it has taken me to wonderful places ... like traveling this life for a while with people like Doug.

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  2. What a lovely post Connie.. I'am very sorry for the loss of your friend and mentor.. I will be thinking about you . Hugs! deb

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    1. Thank you, Deb. I feel better having shared with you what Doug means to me.

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  3. This is a great tribute. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Becky. Putting this out there, instead of running it over and over in my head, is good therapy.

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  4. This is a lovely tribute to your friend and rose lover. I have a copy of the book you mentioned; now I want to read it soon.

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    1. You must read it! Doug's part begins in Chapter 2, on page 41. The first chapter is about Graham Thomas, Carl Cato, and the discovery of the Musk Rose ... including mention of the discover of the plant at Hollywood Cemetery. It's a quick read, and it's very, very enjoyable. (Doug pointed out to me once that the author got a few of his facts wrong. One of them was a mention of how Doug wasn't proficient at rooting cuttings and relied mostly on suckers when rustling roses. He was, in fact, quite good at rooting roses.)

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  5. Just beautiful. You can read all the love in this. I'm so sorry.

    P.S. Cancer sucks!

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    1. Cancer does suck. When I think of Doug, I do so with love. I'm glad that it was apparent in my ramblings.

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  6. Lovely tribute to a lovely man. Sorry to hear of your loss -

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  7. Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, but so lovely of you to write about him in your blog. I'm sure he felt fortunate to know you, someone who shared his passion for roses.

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    1. I think Doug was keenly aware that he was nurturing a like-minded spirit in me.

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  8. My condolences on the loss of your friend, Connie. Very nice tribute and photos.

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    1. Thanks! I love having the photos of Doug at Hollywood Cemetery, which were taken before I knew him. Each one of them shows Doug as I remember him ... talking. He had so much to say.

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  9. This was beautiful dear Connie. What a wonderful friendship you two shared, and what joy to look at notes, photos and roses and remember Doug and all of the memories locked in your heart.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

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    1. I still have two voicemail messages from Doug saved in my phone. I will hold onto them to listen to them whenever I need to ... not now, it's too soon.

      Love to you, too!

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  10. Perfect words. Perfect photos. What a heartfelt tribute!

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    1. Speaking from the heart is really all I know how to do. Starting this post was hard, because I had so much to say and no real flow in my thoughts. Soon, though, as I typed, it all came together and it was easy to tell about Doug and our friendship. Did you ever get to hear him at Tufton? Until recently, he was there every May for the Open House, doing a program and running his Antique Rose Show, identifying roses.

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  11. Oh- I am so sorry, Connie. What a loss for you. It is so seldom we come across someone and have such a deep and abiding attraction to the person and are connected in ways we don't even understand. Prostate cancer has robbed us of two dear friends because it spread so quickly. The blessing in that is when my hubby got diagnosed with prostate cancer he did not have a single qualm about having the surgery---6 years now and still cancer free.
    I bet this was a hard post to write because you relived a lot of those moments as you wrote them. xo Diana

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    1. Thanks, Diana. It helps to have people to share the loss, and there are a lot of us right now who are really missing Doug.

      It’s great to hear that your husband is doing so well 6 years later. A dear friend of ours has a similar experience with prostate cancer, and is perfectly fine today. I like happy stories.

      When I get really sad, I find that it helps me to wallow in it for a while. This post was my way of wallowing. It put a lump in my throat that lasted for most of the day, but it gave a voice to the way I was feeling.

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  12. I am so very sorry for your loss Connie, I know how much Doug meant to you! Thinking of you and his family as you gather to celebrate his life and legacy this weekend!

    xo Kat

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    1. Thanks, Kat. I know you understand. This weekend will be hard, but joyous, as we gather to remember Doug and to say goodbye.

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  13. Oh Connie, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. What a wealth of knowledge he obviously shared with you. How lucky you were to have him among your mentors. ♥

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    1. Thanks, Martha. Doug was a really special person, and he leaves behind a huge legacy for the rest of us rose lovers to carry on. Gonna be really weird figuring out how to do it without him, though.

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  14. That first photo of him, his smile.... such a great photo.
    I'm so sorry for your loss.
    How lucky you were to have such a friend and mentor.
    Life is so so unfair. Truly a great loss.
    You have written a loving tribute.
    xoxo

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  15. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. You've written a wonderful post to remember and pay tribute to Doug that allows someone like me to see what a special person he was, and what a difference he made. I hope you all find comfort from one another, and in your memories that can never be taken away.

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  16. I'm sorry you've lost a friend, Connie. A wonderful tribute.
    Amalia
    xo

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  17. I read this post earlier this week and have been thinking that today all of you will gather to celebrate him. I can't help but think that he must have been at Tufton's Farm for the roses (and irises) event we all went a few years ago. Roses are a wonderful link to people across the globe and it is very touching to know that some of his roses live in your garden today. My thoughts will be with you. Take great care!

    Isabelle

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