On 17th October 2012 time, I received this email from Linda Cathcart of Tropiflora, Sarasota, Florida ”I have some sad news for you, our dear friend Harry Luther had a massive brain haemorrhage & is on life support machine in Singapore & not expected to live. Dennis is in Houston Texas for a program on the new Singapore Garden & Harry Luther, it will be very difficult for him tonight.”
I then advised many persons.
Then I received this from Anton Van Der Schans, Director at Gardens By The Bay: Harry Luther passed away this morning Wed 17th, at 9:47am Sg time, in the intensive care unit at Changi General Hospital. He had been admitted the afternoon before in a suspected diabetic coma, but it turned out to be a brain haemorrhage. The ICU doctors in hospital were unable to bring him out of his coma, and his condition deteriorated rapidly. His next of kin (one brother) is unable to come from the US, so GBB / NParks are organizing his funeral for Friday. Myself & young Arthur (his sidekick / boy Robin) have been asked to present eulogies. Anything you’d like me to say on your behalf, or from anyone else down under?
Again I advised many persons and received the following comments;
Ivón Ramírez Morillo. Mérida, Yucatán, México: I clearly remember one night in December 1990 when I was having a walk with my husband and daughter in the Selby Garden grounds, around midnight. Then, all of a sudden, a large, tall and intimidating figure came out of the mist and shadows, it was you!!. I, a graduate student at the time, felt fearful to work with you. But in a few minutes, after saying few words, I discovered a shy, noble, charitable, clever, humorous, kind, and warm human being. You helped me a lot in my career by being my mentor in things bromeliaceous. I was astonished by your knowledge of bromeliads and of many other plant groups that you lovingly grew and took care of at Selby. Your knowledge was amazing, much larger than that of many people holding a diploma. I always told you that: a title does not make us more clever, instead, love, knowledge and experience do! And those you got!. Have a good time wherever it is you go now, and as they say here in the land of the Mayas when a good friend dies, “you parted ahead of us”!
Lorena Endara: Harry’s departure saddens me deeply. I have lost a very special friend. Although I saw Harry on a daily basis during my time in Selby, it took me three months to talk to him for the first time and I am really grateful that life and orchids put Harry in my path. During my time in Selby Gardens Harry told me so many stories about my native country Ecuador, of how forests and roads used to be before I was born. I was lucky that Harry was a night owl and for this reason we shared many hours working at Selby’s herbarium and many stories. I was even luckier that Harry was an incredible human being who noticed in several occasions that I was home-sick and having a hard time adjusting to life in the US. Harry was always very kind and caring and he made sure that I did not get homesick and that I will be safe working late nights at the Herbarium and then walking back home, who does that for you? Just a true friend like Harry. At some point, Harry noticed that I did not have my own copy of monographic treatments of my orchid group and he gave me his own copy. I have always treasured these green books with his name that he so kindly de-accessioned from his collection with an EX in front of his name. Acronia lutheri is an orchid species that Dr. Carl Luer and I described in his honor. Harry told me he had collected it in one of his trips to Ecuador, in a locality that has already been deforested. When I told him that we dedicated this orchid in his honor, he saw the illustration and told me that this massive orchid with pubescent petals just looked like him, although his beard was better trimmed. I am going to miss him dearly.
Bruce Holst, Selby Gardens: A big loss to the bromeliad world, and to many people who knew him. We are thinking about how we can honor his 32 years of service at Selby Gardens.
Michael Riley: I have known Harry for over 30 years as one of the finest scientists and horticulturists I have ever met. As recently as a couple of months ago I emailed him for his opinion about some bromeliad taxonomy and he was always so willing and eager to discuss any question anyone ever proposed. I bumped into him in the bromeliad world, the orchid world, the aroid world and the gesneriad world – over and over again … with pleasure. His passion for horticulture included the vast collection of gesneriads at Selby Gardens and was the hybridizer of Episcia ‘Pink Panther’ and Episcia lilacina ‘Blue Nile’, a cross between two cultivars of the species. We will miss him in the Gesneriad Society, and everywhere.
Pamela Koide-Hyatt, Bird Rock Tropicals, California: Thanks for the sad news. It was a shock to hear and such a loss to the world of bromeliad lovers. He will truly be missed.
Eric Gouda, Curator University Botanic Gardens, Utrecht: Very sad and bad news! I was very afraid this could happen after his heart attack years ago in Florida. I still can’t believe it! I was communicating with him just some days ago. Professionally we worked a lot together on Bromeliads, mainly behind the scenes, but Harry was by far the most knowledgeable person on earth in the field of Bromeliad Taxonomy. He was maybe the only person with a vast overview of all known species described (a plant family with over 4000 taxa) and helped many beginning taxonomists with their start in Bromeliaceae studies. He was an oracle, a source of information to anybody working with Bromeliads and always there to help. We Bromeliad people will miss him so much!
Farewell and rest in peace Harry.
Beryl & David Sheasby, Bahamas: Very sad news indeed. A great loss to all Bromeliad lovers, and I am quite sure a very great loss for Singapore. So unexpected. I have informed all our people here.
Lynn Wegner, South Africa: We, the bromeliad growers of South Africa, mourn the loss of the great Harry Luther, & send our condolences to his family & his many bromeliad friends & colleagues all over the world.
Derek & Margaret Butcher, South Australia: We were all shocked to hear the news of Harry’s passing. Vale Harry, we will remember a big bloke with a big heart.
Dr. Jiri Stiller, CSIRO Brisbane: My sincere condolences, Harry was your friend. I have never met Harry and now never will. Pretty overwhelming response from people all around the world. Harry must had been a special person.
Arden & Chris Dearden, Equitorial Exotics, Cairns: What a loss to the botanical world.
Francisco Oliva-Esteve: This is shocking news about Harry Luther’s death. I am sad and sorry for such a valuable loss. Thanks to him and to his collaboration and unselfishness, while at Selby Gardens, he allowed me to insert his bromeliad information in my books.
Cairns Society Members
, President: I only met Harry on a few occasions and was not fully cognizant of his earlier work and experience. As recently as last September I had the privilege of introducing Harry as guest speaker at “Bloomin Broms”, at this event Harry was evidently quite relaxed and jovial, which as I understand is not an attribute which he exhibited too frequently in public. Harry evidently enjoyed his Cairns experience as soon after his return to Singapore he confirmed that he would be prepared to return for our next Bloomin Broms weekend in June 2013. The passing of Harry Luther is a very great loss not only in respect to Bromeliad taxonomy and as a plants man who could put a name to just about any temperate and tropical plant species, but also as a person whose devotion to his work left us in humble awe at the personal sacrifices he made in the pursuit of his dreams.
Maria Grant: This is such sad news, such a big loss. My condolences to you and Bob for the loss of your friend, also to his family, friends and work colleagues. We were so lucky to have met him, and that he enjoyed meeting our Society members and being an integral part of Bloomin Broms, 2012. This is a sad day.
Moyneen Charlton: What a shock! It certainly was such a privilege to hear him speak and share in his pleasure in his involvement with and achievedment there in Singapore. A life well lived.
Olive & Harry Frakking, Darwin: It is difficult to pen words for such a humble giant. Darwin 2010, Broms on Arafura, the boss is coming.
Harry, You shared your knowledge so generously with everyone.
You made us sit up and want to learn more and share more, that was your ideology.
For you it did not matter what we knew, it was what you wanted to share; that we should share with others. We are glad we have been in your presence, you who never spoke ill of others. Vale our friend, the world was surely enriched by knowing you.
Darwin 2012, the boss is gone. Bon Voyage
Stuart Howe: That is really sad news.
Olive & Len Trevor, The Olive Branch Brisbane: So sorry we missed that weekend and our last chance to see Harry.
‘Bloomin Broms’ September 2012, Cairns – Attendees
Greg Oldano: Sad loss to all.
Pam Ploss & Lynn Morgan: We were very impressed with his presentation and could easily have jetted off to Singapore to view the gardens the next day.
Lynn Hudson: We considered we were very lucky to have Harry Luther come from Singapore to Cairns as our Special Guest Speaker. We were shocked and saddened to hear Harry had died suddenly on 17th. October at only 60 years young. Many times I have tried to write our newsletter page .. Harry was so close so recently, larger than life. He enjoyed his time here, loved the area and was more relaxed than I had ever seen him before. He talked of so many things while my dog Treazure, harassed him – he enjoyed that. He told us his first early love was of animals and he planned to enter that world. He planned to come back next June. He couldn’t believe we had such a young group – he said many plant groups are ‘pick up a granny’ median age group!
My thoughts have been with Linda & Dennis Cathcart and Anton Van Der Shans – these were his closest ‘family’- plant lovers were the rest of his family. Farewell Harry.