Back in December of 2011, I wrote a post about San Juan Bautista (link: here). Since then, I’ve continued my involvement in rose preservation efforts there. I’ve been there a number of times to help Carol, and with all her work, the roses at the Zanetta House (Plaza Hall) are looking much better. Last year I received a an email from Loryn, who had just moved there. I put her in touch with Carol, and she went several times to help her, too, before some minor surgeries and her own garden and animals kept her from going. Things at the cemetery were not improving, however, and several people in town wanted to get the roses labeled, but no one knew how to start. Preservation is a difficult thing for an individual, much easier for a group. Then, a couple of months ago, Jeri decided to try to get the ball rolling. From her position as National Convener of the Heritage Roses Group, she wrote to both the Mayor (who is also head of the Cemetery Board) and the Historical Society about the condition of the roses in the cemetery. Wanda, of the Historical Society was already one of my contacts there, and I put her in touch with Loryn. They read the letter at the next City Council meeting. Many emails ensued among us over the next month, and the mayor (Tony) agreed to meet with the rose preservation interests at the cemetery on Friday July 26. At that point (early July) the rose preservationists were still just a number of interested individuals who were starting to think maybe they should become a group with a name. They could, for instance become a committee within the existing Historical Society. I suggested they become a part of the Heritage Roses Group, by forming the San Juan Bautista Heritage Rose Group, and sent them to the website (here) and to Jeri. Within hours they were official. Step two- a website. I suggested to Chris (who has some technical know-how, and who, along with his wife, has an interest in preserving the local roses for their historical and tourism value) that he look into weebly.com, which has templates for free websites that are very easy to set up with no knowledge of how to create webpages. The website was up in a couple of days (here), and Chris has since used Weebly to create websites for two other groups he’s involved with. (By the way, there’s a contact form on their homepage, and I’m sure they’d enjoy supportive comments from readers of this blog.) Steps 3 and 4- materials to give Tony about the roses, the groups plans for preserving the roses, and a sample of how we wanted to tag the roses. I provided information on the roses, which I already had, as I had given a tour there in 2012. Chris and Wanda used my info plus GPS to provide exact locations for every rose. Loryn wrote up a draft proposal, which we edited, and had a final form ready. Chris was able to obtain a bunch of clear plastic luggage tag kits in which a business card fits, then put the rose information on one side of each card, and information about the group on the other to produce a sample card.
So Friday the 26th arrived. I met the group at Veritgo Cafe at 9 am. After all our correspondence, if was nice to finally meet Chris and Wanda in person, and to see Loryn again. The three make a great combo for San Juan Bautista- Loryn knows a lot about Heritage Roses, Wanda is involved with local history, and Chris is involved with the strategic planning committee, with tourism being a major part of that. Preserving the roses, starting with those in the cemetery, relates to all three fields. There are a number of unidentified roses in San Juan Bautista, and which have not been found anywhere else. We discussed how we wanted to present our proposal, enjoyed coffee and a pastry that Angela, Chris’ wife, brought over to the table when she popped into the cafe for a minute.
We headed over to the cemetery, and Tony arrived just behind us. After introductions, Chris and Tony did most of the talking. Chris works in sales, and sold our proposal easily, after some initial grousing from Tony about the original letter from Jeri. The maintenance people had been taking care of the roses mainly because someone has to, but they know no more about roses than they do about any shrub. They and Tony were happy to turn it over to the SJBHRG. After the meeting with Tony and with one of the maintenance people, I took our group around to look at each of the roses, and discuss how each should be maintained. Some are on plots that are still active, and they will try to contact the families and ask if they want SJBHRG to care for their rose. If they can’t find the family, the tag will let the family know how to contact them. I also stopped to see Mary Sellen’s grave by a large Perle d’Or rose. I met her on Dia de Los Muertos (blog post here) with my friends Judy and Tamara last Fall, and she kindly let us into her backyard to see the roses there. One was an old bourbon. She let me take cuttings, and I now have a small plant of it (which I’ve given the study name, “Mary Sellen’s Bourbon”). I was sorry to hear of her passing, just a couple months after we met her. Wanda assured me that her roses, most of which were planted by Mary’s mother, will be well looked after by her daughter.
I also took the group to see some of the other heritage roses around town. Some are in the State Park, but others are on private property, and can easily be lost to new landscaping. The plan is first get the cemetery labeled, then write an article for the local paper, then try to build up interest in other locals who have an old rose to preserve it, and perhaps tag it, and/or allow the group to propagate it for eventual sales.
We had lunch at Jardines, a local favorite, especially on such a nice day when sitting outside if preferable to inside. Chris and Angela love Jardines’ mango margaritas, and say they bought their nearby house so they could enjoy the drinks and not have to drive home.
As I drove home that afternoon, I was very happy and excited that there was finally a group interested in preserving the unique roses of San Juan Bautista, and planned to report about the trip to a rose forum I frequent. Then I got home and opened my email. There was one from Jeri telling me that JD (Jim Delahanty) had passed away in his sleep the previous night. The forum was full of laments for our loss. I felt like a deflated balloon. Great happiness turned so quickly to great sadness. I’ve written about JD and his collection of polyantha roses twice: here and here. For years, JD has posted almost daily to the forum or facebook on a great many subjects. He read books in a day, and gave book reviews about them, as well as movies and television shows he’d watched. He wrote numerous articles on roses for newsletters and magazines. He posted pictures of his polyanthas. He expressed opinions about politics (far to the right of mine). He posted pictures of taking his nieces to the Getty Museum. He described the food at his favorite gourmet restaurants. His writing was almost always very enjoyable, whether I agreed with him or not. He once posted about a politician (whom I support) with a simple nasty epithet. I privately wrote him that I had come to expect much more eloquent, expressive terms from him. He replied with a list of much more eloquent epithets, and asked if that was better. I wrote back that yes, that was much preferable. Now I wish I’d kept that email. We’d known his time was limited, as he’d been in hospital several times last fall, and health was the reason he was dismantling his polyantha collection. Those of us who knew the state of his health were surprised at how much he was still doing, and we thought perhaps he wasn’t doing as poorly as we thought. Then came his last facebook post: “I will be AFC for a few days. Wish me well.” I knew what that meant- in the hospital for some complication or tests or procedure, and I did wish him well. Still, it was a shock when I received the email about his passing a couple of days later. I can’t write about Jim without mentioning his wife, Jane. According to Jim, she is the most beautiful, intelligent and wonderful woman who ever lived. He’d hoped to make it to their 50th anniversary together, and nearly made it to their 49th. She has been a lucky woman to have had such a loving husband for so many years.
I’ve looked through my photo albums to see if I have any good photos of Jim and Jane, and sadly, all I have are unposed group shots with one or the other of them at some angle or partly blocked by another person. The following picture of them was taken by Suzanne Horn, which she shared on JDs facebook page today. Good-bye Jim. We’ll all really miss you. Besides living your life to the fullest, you made all our lives fuller, too.