An irisarian extraordinaire has left us. And ironically Fred Cassebeer's death occurred on the same March 14 that saw the departure of Catherine Smith. Thus in one day the gates were closed on two of the loveliest, oldest, and best known iris gardens in the New York area.
Fred's accomplishments weren't confined just to maintaining a beautiful garden, though. He was a hybridizer of note, a gifted photographer (for AIS and other national publications), a former BULLETIN Editor during the difficult World War II years, AIS Director, and a popular lecturer and writer about irises. While a Society Director he was responsible for the designing of the medals awarded for Hybridizing and for Distinguished Service; and in 1952 he was awarded that for Distinguished Service.
His iris growing began in 1928 but active hybridizing didn't get under way until around 1940. Many of his tall bearded originations enjoyed regional popularity, while WHITE SPRITE and SWEETHEART'S FOLLY in particular will be remembered by many members throughout the country. But it was his Siberian WHITE SWIRL that proved to be his crowning achievement. Its dramatic advance in form over its predecessors set a new standard for the class. Accordingly, it received the Morgan Award in 1962.
Fred's son John was a highly knowledgeable irisarian and it was Fred's hope that his son would carryon with the garden and hybridizing. This ended abruptly with John's tragic death in an automobile accident during his first college year. This marked the start of a decline in spirit from which Fred never recovered. Nevertheless, his tireless encouragement of other iris people as well as his development of superlative Siberians has assured him a place of honor in the continuum of iris development.²
¹Find A Grave
, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com
: accessed 15 January 2019), memorial page for Frederick William Cassebeer (18 Aug 1896–15 Mar 1975), Find A Grave Memorial no. 175986772
, citing Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, Rockland County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Carole Elizabeth Nurmi Cummings # 47178231 (contributor 47178231
²In Memoriam, Fred W. Cassebeer, AIS Bulletin 218(July 1975):72.