The following detailed description of the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society in its earlier years was penned by Life Member, Jim Mabee.
The year was 1982 and the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society re-emerged after a 30 year lapse (1907-1952). Harry Miller, the new founder formed a charter board of *Robert Anderson, Michael Ardell, Carole Beselaere, Eunice Blake, Eugene Bowen, Gertie Bowen,Shirley Daniel, Rosa Elliot, Frank Hawel, Betty Heard, Kathryn (Marentette) Hesketh, Ray Innis, Jennifer Laker, *Jim Mabee, Harry Miller, *George Rae, *Lilian Resch, Margaret Simons, *Jean Tucker, Ross Tucker and Jerry Turner. (*still serving on Board in 1994)
We soon outgrew our first meeting room in the Tillsonburg Public Library and in June of 1983 we moved to the Tillson Ave. Public School. Overcrowding again necessitated a move and in September 1989 we made a temporary move into the Community Centre while we patiently waited for the Senior Citizens Auditorium which was finally constructed and ready for us to occupy in May 1990.
The ‘Festival of Flowers ‘83’, at the Tillsonburg Town Centre Mall, was our first attempt at a public show. Local merchants were approached and The Tillsonburg News and G B Engraving donated perpetual trophies for the ‘highest points in the show’ and ‘best of show’. As years passed, the exhibits got better and better and the top notch show started drawing more viewers from greater distances.
Also in 1983, board members Eugene and Gertie Bowen donated the Bowen Trophy to help stimulate interest in the monthly competitions and it is presented annually to the member with the highest accumulated points.
This was the first year many of our members attended the District 10 Workshop and OMAF Rural Organizations meetings, and the year that Lilian Resch and Ann Miller set up the bylaws for the society, later revised in 1989.
1984 was a busy year as board member Ilene Chesterman began a new venture with a Junior Society. It became so successful that in 1987 she was invited to speak on the subject at the district workshop in London and in 1988 at the OHA Convention in Ottawa. For Ilene’s contributions, she was awarded the OHA Junior Service Award in 1994. Hazel Mason took on the reigns next and handled over 60 junior gardeners per year and managed a large committee of volunteers who visited and judged the junior gardens. Bob Anderson held an annual demonstration/workshop in the park for the juniors that would be competing in our Festival of Flowers Junior Division.
In 1984 the Hort. Society was active at the Tillsonburg Home & Rec Show and placed a float in the Santa Claus parade. The gardens at Annandale House, a newly acquired historic site in Tillsonburg, were brought on board and as the refurbishing of the old homestead began,so did the plans for the gardens. Fanshawe College of London graciously accepted our invitation to prepare landscape designs. Over the years of construction on the house, a new wing was added and it became the town museum with even more gardens to be planted and maintained by the society.
This was also the year the OHA award winning newsletter called the “Till-o-gram” was first published by the ongoing committee of Jim Mabee, Michael Homick and Bob Anderson.
In 1986, monthly garden columns by Jim Mabee were published in The Tillsonburg News and the Otter Publishing Chain; and in 1989 they were syndicated to the Tillsonburg Independent News.
1987 saw a ‘growing together’ between the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society and the Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair and an educational display was placed at the fair. Again in ‘91, we became even more close as the Horticultural Society donated prize money to be used for the horticultural and design competitions at the fair.
Tillsonburg became a sponsor of the Oxford Master Gardener program in 1989 and had Michael Homick, Jim Mabee, Kathy Mabee and Hazel Mason, along with trainees from Ingersoll and Woodstock Societies, enrolled in the independent study course offered by Guelph University.
A three year judging school was held by District 10 in London in 1992, and in 1994 Tillsonburg had Bob Anderson, Michael Homick, Jim Mabee and Hazel Mason graduate as accredited judges.
In 1995, Tillsonburg was one of the societies in District 10 to host the three-day OHA convention in London, with our specific duties being the welcoming and information committee.
A new committee was formed in 1992, the Lake Lisgar Renaissance Project, with Bob Lehman at the helm for the Horticultural Society. Many clubs in the town banded together in a major undertaking to clean up the lake, do plantings and generally refurbishing the area.
1993 found Tillsonburg as host of the District 10 Annual Meeting which was held during April instead of the usual October. To commemorate the occasion, District 10 provided Tillsonburg with a Red Bud Tree (Cercis canadensis) which was planted in the Tillsonburg Cemetery.
Over the years, extended tours have been taken to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania,Chicago Botanical Gardens, Montreal Botanical Gardens, Frankenmuth in Michigan, and Ameri-Flora in Columbus, Ohio and Sheila Smith did an excellent job acting as the hostess.
In the Tillsonburg Cemetery, memorial trees were planted for Harry Miller, Eunice Blake, Eugene Bowen, Bob Anderson, and John Coldham, and a bench was placed in memory of John Jaegher. At the Library a bench was placed in memory of Alf Burns and trees were planted for Alf Burns and John Jaegher.
President 1982*Harry Miller—Rosa Elliot (correspondence) —Jennifer Laker (recording)1983*Eunice Blake—Rosa Elliot (correspondence) —Jennifer Laker (recording) 1984*Eugene Bowen—Lilian Resch 1985*Bob Anderson—Lilian Resch 1986*Lilian Resch—Wilma DeClercq —Jim Mabee 1987Ilene Chesterman—Jim Mabee 1988*Gertie Bowen—Jim Mabee 1989Jim Mabee—Gertie Bowen —Michael Homick 1990*Bob Anderson—Michael Homick 1991Jim Mabee—Michael Homick 1992Michael Homick—Jim Mabee 1993*Bob Anderson—Jim Mabee 1994*Bob Lehman—Bob Anderson