A 60 Year Tradition
Written by Eleanor Kinzie
The Southwest Florida Orchid Society was formed by a group of orchid enthusiasts in the year 1953. It was lead by Dr. A Louis Girardin and his wife Virginia and included Ruth Farrar, who became the first president. Others that I know were Roy Jelinek, Louise Hill, Dr. Carry Barry, Laura Kibler, Ben Brown, Joe Tooke and Willie Hagen. Presidents followed as they are listed our yearbook. The purpose of organizing was to share with others the love and knowledge of their passion for orchids.
As we celebrate 54 years we would like to remember some of our very active members in years past. Of course, Virginia Girardin, for her long service to the society, Joe Tooke and Willie Hagen did their part in building up our membership. Eleanor Kinzie, Lee and Tom Camps, Bettye Chandler, Carol Sage and Lyle Danielson would load up the car or van and take off to a show in Sarasota, Venice, Naples, or where ever we were invited to put in a display to represent our society. We usually won a ribbon or award.
We have come a long way from in home meeting places, displays in bank lobbies, strolling flower shows in downtown Fort Myers and at the Southwest Florida Fair. Until recently, each year we staged our own orchid shows at the Exhibition Hall, the National Guard Armory, Edison College, Edison Mall, Metro Mall, Harborside, to name a few places. Willie Hagen so enjoyed doing the bank displays and once saw a huge seashell she knew would look exquisite with orchids draping from it. Although she was afraid of heights, she got a ladder and climbed up to put orchids in it.
In 1984 our society put a 100 sq.ft. exhibit in the World Orchid Conference in Miami. Lyle Danielson, Lee and Tom Camps, Eleanor Kinzie, her son Walter Kinzie, and Ruth Farrar loaded up a horse trailer full of foliage, orchids and props and headed for Miami. They won a ribbon for our society!
Joann and Bill Taylor had 1 greenhouse in Dayton, Ohio and were active in their society before moving to our area. It was at our local fairground she was introduced to our society through a tent exhibit. Through building their business here, they wound up with many greenhouses full of beautiful orchids. Aren’t we grateful for the faithful who go out into the community making others aware of our existence, some who are sadly missed.
Thanks to all who have had a part in our history. Our journey has been over 50 years now and we are still going strong. For those of you who give, give and give some more, our hats are off to you, and our hearts go out to you. Many thanks for your faithfulness in keeping the torch burning!