McLean, Virginia, USA
Remembrances by Mike Lowe, Anne Lowe, Susan Grigg, Bob Pries:
It is difficult to sum up the life of a person who has "done it all". Particularly a man who always accomplished life's tasks and obligations with grace, skill and éclat.
We knew Clarence, first from his writings in Iris media and AIS publications, then from garden visits and finally from a friendship that extended and deepened over the decades that we were privileged to know Clarence and Sukey. Clarence was generous to a fault, a visit to his garden could be dangerous to your vehicle's suspension! Generous sharing of hard to obtain plants was the least of the treasures that a visit to his garden could afford, more valuable was the knowledge that he was able to impart during a ramble through his extensive and varied holdings. Anne and I never ceased learning both horticultural and life wise lessons through our association with Clarence. We were mentored in the plant and organizational world so skillfully and gracefully that only on reflection did we realize that we had been educated as well as entertained. Both Anne and I never found Clarence lacking when we (often!) editorially needed filler, trivia, anecdotes, iris history, and articles. He authored essays, histories articles and a well received and reviewed book on Iris and iris people.
An oft written and spoken cliché; "the world is a poorer place for his passing" but in the case of Clarence E. Mahan, all too painfully true.
--- Mike Lowe
Mike and I had been AIS members for several years before we attended our first Region 4 spring meeting in 1985. During one of the garden tours there was a bespectacled man of middle age, hopping around like a flea on a hot griddle, constantly asking questions and making comments about the irises we were seeing. In reply to my "Who is that guy?", the reply was "Oh, that's Clarence Mahanhe's Mahan–he's an apprentice judge." That was my first exposure to the man who would become a mentor, fellow editor and dear and treasured friend.
Over the years Clarence and I followed much the same paths in our iris involvement both regionally and nationally: we were both Chapter editors; we both served as Region 4 RVP; Mike and I took over editing Region 4 Newscast when Clarence gave it up to become RVP and Chair of the 1991 AIS Convention. Only once did Clarence succeed me¬ and that was when he became the 2nd president of the newly formed Historic Iris Preservation Society.
When Clarence was elected President of the AIS he asked me to serve as AIS Recording Secretary. Little did I know what I was getting into when I agreed to take on the jobit job–it was an interesting and educational 3 years to say the least.
Clarence was a dedicated historian and he was always willing to share his knowledge, time, wisdom, experience and, yes, his opinions too. As an editor I often needed a word, fact, phrase or advice and he never failed to meet my needs with wit and grace. Clarence was never stingy with praise or thanks which always made one willing fulfill any request he might make. Mike and I felt honored to serve as proofreaders of his book for which Mike provided the photographs. He and I both received the AIS DSM in 2004 and I felt really honored to be in such company. I believe that Convention was his last.
In later years Clarence and I shared something else not quite so rewarding - we were both Type 2 diabetics and we spent many minutes on the phone discussing foods and sharing appropriate recipes. The one place where we deviated was when I stopped smoking. Sadly enough Clarence did not! As his health deteriorated and he became housebound, we communicated via telephone and email and always through his elegant Christmas cards.
Now he is gone from us. However the good memories and admiration we had for this kind and generous man will live on. We shall remember him fondly!
--- Anne Lowe
My Friend, Clarence E. Mahan
When Region 4 began the E. Roy Epperson Service Award in 2011, I could only think of one person that could be the first recipient – Clarence E. Mahan. As I did research about Clarence, I discovered some interesting facts about him. Clarence grew up in Bloomer, Ohio in a two story house that was painted lavender. (How could he not later love irises with so many in that color!) After graduation from high school in 1956 he became a GI and was stationed in Korea. It was there that he met Suky, his lovely wife. He and Suky joined AIS in 1980. As an AIS judge, he once presented a training class called, "What Every Judge Should Know; Judging Points Overlooked or Forgotten". When Dave Niswonger was President of AIS, Clarence suggested the idea of a silent auction being held at the spring AIS convention.
Since Clarence was not able to attend the Fall Regional meeting to receive the Epperson Service Award in person, I called him in advance to let him know that he was the recipient. Clarence was touched that this Award, named for his good friend Roy, was being awarded to him; he thanked me and the Region for "remembering him". I had the pleasure of meeting his daughter, Christiane, who accepted the Award for her father at the meeting.
Clarence was a man of energy, intelligence, and wit. He served AIS in many roles, and was always generous with his time and resources. He was not shy about voicing his opinion about any subject, and he cared deeply about Region 4 and about AIS. I always looked forward to Clarence's spirited participation in regional board meetings.
A visit to his garden was a treat; he was interested in all types of irises, but grew many Japanese irises near a pond in the back yard. Each May he and Suky had a garden party and invited friends and work colleagues to enjoy the iris in bloom. When he first enlarged the garden to welcome a national AIS tour, he said that he made a garden center prosper with his purchases to construct and prepare a terraced bed for iris.
So many people have been touched by this dear man from Bloomer, who loved family, friends, and plants. I'm so glad I knew him.
--- Susan Grigg
Clarence was my friend. We shared an obsessive interest in Iris history and trivia. As such, we also shared a love of talking and probably have both been accused of being too pedantic. We also both had strong opinions but unlike many people when we disagreed we still had enormous respect for the other's opinion despite the fact it may have diverged from our own. Like me Clarence had a great love of books but he put it to use much better than I, by writing his own historical Iris reference.
Last year I was gathering material for the 100th anniversary issue and I called Clarence. I asked him what he felt his most important accomplishment was when he was president of AIS. He surprised me with "Balancing the Budget". I had forgotten that when he took office AIS was close to bankruptcy. Previously AIS had published "The World of Iris" It was an enormous success and I have no idea how many copies were printed but with then about 7,000 members they quickly sold out. So of course, the board authorized another printing. In hindsight several mistakes were made. The original printing was sold at too low a price so the coffers were not replete and the when it came to the second printing the market had already approached saturation so relatively few books of the second edition sold. The huge inventory of books had AIS funds tied up and it was not going to be possible to pay the bills. I asked Clarence how he solved the problem. He told me that he eliminated all paid AIS positions. Although he was not asked Keith Keppel the then registrar gave back his pay in exchange for a vote on the boards as per the bylaws. Heroically some stayed in their positions with no pay. Quickly the Budget deficit was turned and ultimately the reserves we are using today were created. Clarence was willing to make the tough call.
One thing that endeared me to Clarence was his efforts to get old Japanese Iris properly registered. Sadly we still have many irises of various groups in circulation today that have never been properly registered. Clarence we need your skill at solving these problems. It seems Clarence's scholarly approach to the genus Iris is diminishing within AIS. Certainly with Clarence gone we have lost a great deal of Iris knowledge, Thankfully he did so much to preserve some of it for us.
--- Bob Pries
If you would like to add your remembrances of Clarence you may write them in the comment box and they will be added at the bottom of this page.
Tall Bearded: 'Betty Frances', 'Christiane Elizabeth', 'Dorothy Lee', 'Emily Gianfortoni', 'Forever In Love', 'Lady Bird Johnson', 'Obi-Wan Kenobi', 'Ryan Mahan', 'Suky', 'Swann's Way', 'Unchained Melody', 'Violet Music'.