Tom Stuart obituary

Tom Stuart, age 76, died on August 3, 2017, of complications from a bulbar form of ALS, which affected his speech and head and neck muscles. By email from his iPad to family and friends over the past year, he unabashedly chronicled the progression of the disease. In a message from April 9, 2017, Tom wrote, “Doubt there will be another update . . . Martinis. Now taking them again with a dash of cannabis.”

            Few people have impacted the society in so many ways. Tom was a familiar face of the North American Rock Garden Society, but most often was behind the scenes pulling strings by advocating and persuasively lobbying for issues.

            Tom served in various administrative capacities in the society, including: member of the board; director-at-large; grants, Internet, and membership committees; chair of the Hudson Valley Chapter; and organizer of annual meetings, and the Ephemeral Seed Exchange, a quasi-NARGS entity.

            Significantly, he headed the NARGS Seed Exchange and kept it functioning at a crucial time when federal regulations began imposing restrictions on foreign seed imports, eventually allowing permits for small lots of garden seeds. His interest in garden seeds led him to get the “Barnard E. Harkness Seedlist Handbook” on line, making the publication more widely available.

            He was an early proponent of the Internet and pushed NARGS into the cyberworld before many of its leaders understood its meaning and import.  Tom successfully pressed for the publication of “Rock Garden Plants of North America,” culled from the best writings of the first 50 years of NARGS’s quarterly journals.

             Tom’s garden in Croton Falls, New York, contains many fine plants, particularly woodlands and fern species. His passion for ferns resulted in lectures to NARGS chapters and garden clubs. Tom’s garden will live on through numerous plants he passed along to gardening friends, many in the Manhattan Chapter for its annual plant sales. The living memorial contains shortia, gentian, corydalis, ferns, and uncommon native plants.

            In addition to chapter service awards, Tom received the society’s Award of Merit in 1998, eloquently written by his friend, Larry Thomas, of the Manhattan Chapter, whose endorsement declared, “Tom galvanized many of us into action on projects that have changed the face of our organization.”

            Tom’s survivors include his long-term partner, Ernie Gilbert.

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