Bert Zuckerman

Susan Knorr, Editor of Garden Views
Bert Zuckerman

“I will miss his stories,” was Curator of Tropical Fruit Richard Campbell's comment. We all will. For all of Bert Zuckerman's many talents, it is as a story teller that most of us will remember him. To Garden staff, volunteers and members, he was our collective memory of the Garden. With 33 years of service as a volunteer and Garden Historian, he had an unrivaled perspective of the events and people that affected the Garden.

During the time I worked with Bert, he spent his days at the Research Center, surrounded by the books, photos and files he was transferring to CD-ROM in what was to be his final gift to the Garden. His superb memory made the job perfect for him; no ordinary person could have managed the vast array of documents dating back to David Fairchild's early work.

Bert delighted in seeking out and telling “the story.” “Come in;” he'd call out, as I walked by his office. “I've come across a terrific story for the newsletter.” Other times he would have a story from his early life, a description of sealing drafty windows in a cold Northwestern University room with ice, or an anecdote from his work as a General Staff Officer during WWII. Like most great storytellers, he focused on the people involved: the Fairchilds, the Montgomerys, and successive directors of the Garden. Jack Fisher, Senior Research Scientist, tells how Bert enlivened lunchtime talk at the Research Center. “He liked to tell about the historic personalities, sharing stories and vignettes about them. Other times he would argue and gently berate us for not being current on the news of the day.”

Bert flrst volunteered in 1967, repotting the Garden's collection of 2,000 orchids. In 1973, he saw the need for the Garden to offer guided walking tours, so he wrote a training manual and recruited, trained and coordinated volunteer tour guides. Four years later, he formed the Friends of Fairchild, adding structure to the volunteer program and strengthening the bonds between the Garden and volunteers. And in 1988, he developed a benefit and recognition program for the volunteers which included awarding pins to volunteers with five or more years of service.

It was in 1980 that Bert started work on the Garden's collection of historical photos, artifacts and documents, organizing and cataloging the ever-growing collections. In 1984, the Garden recognized his contributions officially, naming Bert the Garden Historian. In the following years, he wrote three books - The Dream Lives On: The History of Fairchild Tropical Garden, The Kampong, and The Montgomery Story, and wrote many articles for the Garden's newsletter.

In March, Bert's dedicated service to the Garden was recognized when he was named the flrst recipient of Fairchild Tropical Garden's Lifetime Service Award. In August, Bert received a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities to evaluate the Garden's archives as a step toward a larger operating grant. In further recognition of his unrivaled contributions, Julia Kornegay, Garden Director, announced that the archives room will be named in his honor.

Director of Volunteer Services Arlene Ferris remembered him fondly, saying, “Bert was a volunteer like no other, and his accomplishments at the Garden are legendary. He volunteered for 33 years and gave thousands of hours of time to this Garden, a place he truly loved. He began programs which will benefit the Garden and the community for years to come. He was a cherished friend to many on the staff and he shared with us his wonderful stories and his great wisdom, on countless occasions. The volunteers who worked with him in the archives were devoted to him. We are going to miss Bert - he was an incredible, unforgettable man.”

Garden Views November 2000

DHTML JavaScript Menu By

11935 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156-4299 USA

Phone: 305-667-1651   •   Fax 305-665-8032