I met the kindest gentleman one day, while strolling through the spider daylilies at Oakes in Knoxville. It was one of Oakes' annual Open House days, when the Hem Society was in town. He noticed my close attention to the spiders and struck up a conversation, and I told him how wild I was for tall spiders and how unhappy I was that hybridization had gone in other directions that did not please me. I saw that I had found a kindred spirit. He was a tall, quiet man with an easy smile, wearing what I'd describe as "field clothing" including his trademark sun hat; and he was in no hurry. I liked him instantly. He introduced himself simply as Ned. I said, "Are you the Ned of 'Easy Ned'?" and he smiled and said yes. We talked for some time about daylilies and I realized he was a breeder; his intelligence and knowledge were obvious; but I was entirely ignorant of the name "Ned Roberts", or of his stature and many accomplishments---or that he was Dr. Ned Roberts. That's the kind of mild, unpretentious man he was. He met people with genuine interest and attention, without promoting himself.
I was a busy housewife and mother who had driven four hours to Knoxville for what I called "my annual daylily pilgrimage". I never did get around to joining the Hem Society as Ned had urged me to; but miraculously, I met him again two years later----same time, same place. Neither of us had been back to Knoxville until then, and we both chose the same day and hour to visit the spider daylily bed. Lucky me. I was so glad to see him again.
I was heartily sorry to hear of Ned's passing. People can't live forever, but we needed a couple more decades of Ned Roberts. I'm sure he touched thousands of lives---in the way that people who are both kind and insightful do. How lucky all of us were who knew him, even if only for a short afternoon.
I greatly appreciate the family photos posted, allowing me to see those who were dearest to Ned. I will always remember him.
January 29, 1935 - September 1, 2006 - Lucien Edward "Ned" Roberts, age 71, died September 1, 2006 in Penrose Hospital. He was born in Carrollton, GA, on January 29, 1935 to Dr. and Mrs. Lucien Emerson Roberts and Ellen Ballard Roberts. While doing his undergraduate work at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, NM, Mr. Roberts met Betty Tovar, whom he married in 1955. He earned a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy and Political Science and a Masters Degree in History and Education. He taught English and History in the Las Vegas Public Schools. In 1961, the Roberts relocated to Albuquerque, and Mr. Roberts taught in the Albuquerque Public Schools before working on his Doctorate at the University of New Mexico. He remained at UNM until he retired in 1988. During his UNM tenure, Mr. Roberts was an Administrator with the Institute of Applied Research Services. Mr. Roberts began hybridizing Hemerocallis (daylilies) in the 1980's. His interest was in developing new forms, and he concentrated his efforts on Spiders and Unusual Form types. He began registering his daylilies in 1994 and registered a total 125 cultivars in a period of twelve years. During this time, Mr. Roberts won a multitude of awards from the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS). His Hemerocallis `Skinwalker', a huge, beautiful pinkish/lavender cascading form, is recognized all over the United States and abroad. It has won Honorable Mention and Award of Merit citations, and in 1994, it won the Harris Olson Spider Award. His flowers have also garnered awards on the show table. H `Skinwalker' and H. Desert Icicle' have won Best Spider and Best Unusual Form in daylily shows in nine regions. Mr. Roberts was co-president of the Colorado Springs Daylily Society. He was an AHS garden judge and instructor and an exhibitions judge and instructor. He has served as a Garden Judge Liaison for Region 6 (New Mexico and Texas) and Region 9 (Alberta, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Saskatchewan, Utah, and Wyoming). As a noted hybridizer, Mr. Roberts has conducted programs, and/or Exhibitions Clinics and Garden Judges Workshops in 13 of the 15 AHS Regions. He recently won the Region 9 Service Award. Mr. Roberts is survived by his wife Betty, twin daughters Ellen Sommers (LaMar Sommers) of Colorado Springs, Betty Alexandria Roberts of Highlands Ranch, grandchildren Allison and Nathan Sommers, and brother Calvin Alexander Roberts (Susan Fleming) of Albuquerque. A Memorial Service is being held on Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. at Village Seven Presbyterian Church, 4050 Nonchalant Cir. S., Colorado Springs, CO, 80917. A reception will follow in Leonard Hall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mr. Roberts' name to the American Cancer Society, 1445 N. Union Blvd., Suite B100, Colorado Springs, CO, 80909, or to the AHS Youth Fund. Mail all AHS contributions c/o Jerry Pate Williams, 8497 Wetherfield Lane, Cincinnati, OH, 45236.
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Published in The Gazette on Sep. 6, 2006.