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Bob Whitmore, 1938-2017

On July 3, 2017 my world became a little less bright with the passing of a dear friend, Robert Edward Whitmore, or more simply, Bob. For those of you who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Bob in the hosta world, on the local, regional and national levels, you know what I mean.

Bob was born on February 22, 1938. He and his wife, Becky, were married 57 years and have two sons, Steven and David, and three grandchildren. His life was colored by an interesting journey through education, first at Butler University as a business major, followed by a bachelor’s degree at the John Herron School of Art in art education and then a master’s degree in art at Indiana University, Bloomington. Interestingly, prior to completing his college education, Bob worked as a brick mason for a number of years. Bob taught at Washington High School in Indianapolis from 1969-1996 and also became Chairman of the Art Department until the school’s closing.

Bob was an avid gardener and was bitten by the hosta bug in 1989 after attending a hosta show in Indianapolis that was part of the National Hosta Society convention. Soon after he joined the Indianapolis Hosta Society, he started accumulating new varieties of hosta, travelling to other hosta gardens and becoming more involved with the activities of the hosta society. For several years he served as a representative to the Great Lakes Region Board of the American Hosta Society. In that role, he helped establish and expand a yearly conference for Midwest gardeners called Hosta College. Many of you were able to enjoy Bob’s efforts in creating a Hosta College Bookstore for that event. ‘Bookmeister’ Bob offered many gardening publications, garden tools, monogrammed hosta clothing and more for 2 days resulting in sales of 7-10 thousand dollars to support the activities of the regional meeting. This annual event continues to this day in Piqua, Ohio each spring.

In 1994, Bob and Becky moved to a 30 acre farm in Parke County and opened Dogwood Farm, a hosta nursery and display gardens. Here they grew hostas for their business as well as the Indianapolis Hosta Society, taught others about growing hosta, and attracting visitors and garden groups from Indiana and surrounding states. Some of my fondest memories were centered around the annual IHS spring workday and pitch-in lunch out at Dogwood Farm. The society plants grown there were sold at an annual June plant sale that accompanied the Hosta Cut-Leaf Show, and used at the year-end banquet as prizes for Hosta Bingo (‘Hosto!’). Bob was forever growing, cleaning, transporting and setting up plants for these events. His knowledge and efforts did not go unnoticed. In 1997 Bob and his Dogwood Farm gardens were featured in a front-page article of the Terre Haute Tribune Star, and later in a 2004 book by Betty Earl entitled In Search of Great Plants.

Beyond gardening, Bob served as a Scoutmaster for Troop 510 of the Boy Scouts of America for many years. He was an accomplished ceramicist, exhibiting and selling pottery through the gift shop at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Later he branched out into watercolors, creating beautiful paintings and landscapes, which were exhibited in The Gallery in Rockville, IN and numerous shows in the Wabash Valley area.  

Bob’s battle with bladder cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease came to an end on July 3, 2017. Although he is not with us, I will remember his kindness, generosity and goodness, as will others who knew him.

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