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Remembering Joel Fry

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Joel Fry, curator of Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, died on March 21. Joel spoke at our SGHS annual meeting in Jacksonville in 2018.  
Joel studied the lives and work of John and William Bartram. John Bartram was an American horticulturist and plant explorer whom Carl Linnaeus called “the greatest natural botanist in the world.” Bartram’s son, William, traveled by foot and by boat through the American Southeast from the Carolinas to Louisiana in the 1770s, exactly 250 years ago, leaving a body of art and writing about the early South that will be studied for centuries. 
Joel Fry was one of the country’s experts on the Bartrams and their work, combining an extraordinary grasp of both history and botany. But even more remarkable was his gentle spirit—his ever-ready response to every inquiry, his desire to share his knowledge and scholarship wherever he was invited.
 I was very fortunate to know Joel over many years. Peggy Davis Coates, longtime director of LSU Hilltop Arboretum, and I went to Philadelphia about ten years ago for a tour of Bartram’s Garden with Joel. When we asked for information about the plants Billy Bartram saw on his travels through Louisiana, Joel sent detailed plant lists and additional references. He was an active member of the Bartram Trail Conference that holds biennial meetings throughout the South, and I spent time with him at several of those get-togethers, most notably in Montgomery, Alabama, where I drove him from site to site since I had a car and he didn’t. 
Joel was a pleasure. Never boastful, always wry, quietly and deeply intelligent, quick to smile. All of us who knew him will miss him very much. 
Joel’s obituary:
Bartram Trail Conference:
Follow Randy Harelson:
Randy Harelson, President (Louisiana) Randy Harelson was born in Macon, GA to parents whose families both came from East Baton Rouge Parish, LA, for many generations. The family moved back to Louisiana when Randy was seven, but always called him their “Georgia peach.” Educated at LSU Lab School and Louisiana State University, Randy moved to Massachusetts in 1974 to teach art in an innovative “integrated arts in education” program in Attleboro Public Schools. A gardener since childhood, he worked at Hill-Roberts Elementary School to develop an “outdoor classroom” of trees, shrubs, and flowers while a full-time art teacher. He later served as a professional designer and assistant horticulturist at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island. Randy’s broad career has included writing and illustrating nine published books, and running a retail nursery in Seagrove Beach, Florida that won the S. J. Blakely Award in 2003. Back home in New Roads, Randy has planted a small arboretum of trees and shrubs both native and imported, documented in Louisiana by 1860. Randy first attended a SGHS annual meeting at Mount Vernon in 2010. The next year his home was included in the Sunday tours at the Baton Rouge meeting. Randy and his husband Richard Gibbs, an architect and gardener, have been members ever since, and Randy joined the board of directors in 2015. At home they care for two acres of gardens, a 500-year-old live oak, the 200-year-old LeJeune House, and a Siamese cat named Miss Priss.
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