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FOUNDERS AWARD 2022:  Judy Wong

Judy Wong, the recipient of this years Founders Award,

is a long time active member of Western Horticulture Society. She joined the Western Hort board in 1993, and was President

in 1998 and 1999. She was Vice President from 2015 to 2018 when she joined the Board for the second time.

She was involved in Founder Award research for a number of years. She has also been an important contributor to the Western Hort Speakers Committee for several years and her connections with members in the horticultural world have enhanced our speaker selections.

Around 1993, along with a dear friend, she graduated from the Master Gardeners Program. This was not her only input into becoming a knowledgeable gardener. Reading books, taking classes, and volunteering all added to accumulated knowledge about plants and how to grow them.

Around 1993, along with a dear friend, she graduated from the Master Gardeners Program.

This was not her only input into becoming a knowledgeable gardener. Reading books, taking classes, and volunteering all added to accumulated knowledge about plants and how to grow them.

Ever since taking plant ID classes, when she says the name of a plant she says it out loud. It is a way to keep her memory banks perking.

Judy is a native of Santa Barbara, California, where her garden loving mother involved her children in caring for her garden. Initially this was not a positive thing, since mowing lawns and raking and weeding are just chores when you are a child.

Judy started her working career as an occupational therapist, studying for this career first at

California State in Fresno, then the University of California in Santa Barbara, and finally graduating

with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University.

Her first job was working for San Francisco’s Pacific Medical Center hospitals for 15 years. This entailed biking to the train station in the dark, taking the train from Menlo Park in the early hours of the morning, picking up a car where it had been left overnight, then using the car to go between two or three hospitals.

At the end of the day she left the car in San Francisco, and returned to Menlo Park on the train.

Her husband Jack said it was enjoyable, but it used up a lot of energy. This went on for about 15 years.

Her next job was at Stanford Hospital (closer to home) where for 21 years and 10 months, now a Senior Occupational Therapist, Judy was mainly in the ICU working with heart transplant patients, helping them

get back on their feet and on with their daily lives.

Hiking and backpacking are favorite activities. This is how she met her husband Jack Kuhn when they were both students at San Jose State. Backpacking together in Yosemite is a shared activity.

For her 50th birthday, they hiked the John Muir Trail for two weeks from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney.

Judy loves California native plants, especially the spring flowers, and on her wildflower hikes she calls their names out loud. She gets plenty of opportunity to do this as a docent on wildflower hikes in

Edgewood Park Natural Preserve. She also volunteers in the visitor center at Edgewood. Native plants grow throughout her own low water usage garden.

Judy also volunteered weekly at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in the South African Bulb section.

Her interest in South African bulbs began when she took a trip to South Africa, and she now has a collection of South African bulbs in her own garden.

She is always eager to try something new, especially if it is challenging, like grafting onto tomato plants and growing Stapella variegata from seed.

When Judy and her husband first moved in together, it was in an apartment off of Ravenswood Ave.

in Menlo Park. There was a small balcony that quickly filled up with potted plants. She had always had an interest in plants, despite those early childhood chores. The more serious gardening started in 1986 when they bought a house in Menlo Park that had a garden full of weeds, a front lawn and about 500 sq. ft.

in the back. It has been transformed, of course, and includes a fence full of succulents that is a must see.

Traveling is a passion, and Judy has visited four continents, including the South Pole in 2018.

She travels with the Hortisexuals, her friends, and her sister. This passion coincides with and augments

her passion for cooking and eating.

Judy is a Foodie. She was traveling in Spain, for example, and remembered a restaurant she and her sister discovered 12 years earlier. Then she convinced someone to help her find it again. And they did find it and had a fabulous meal! When in Spain it helps to be able to do this if you speak Spanish, which she does.

She can name favorite eateries up and down the West Coast, and you will be wise to rely on her recommendations. Like where to get the best sandwiches or ice cream in Ashland, Oregon.

Judy loves to cook and never misses an opportunity to create something wonderful for a small gathering,

or for a committee meeting. She can make such delicious specialties as white peach butter, mango chutney (a secret recipe) and various salsas.

Along with these treats comes the tea kettle. Tea is her favorite drink. She knows and seeps many different teas! She even is part of a group of “tea lady” friends who meet as often as they can find an excuse

for a tea and chat party.

Judy has a reputation for being a very caring and helpful person. As an example, her husband remembers being at a slide show once when the bulb burned out. She was the one who offered to go buy another one. Around 2017 Judy was one of the people responsible for getting the plants for the Hot Plant Picks

at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. She is most generous in sharing divisions, seeds and seedlings with anyone taking an interest. For years she has been a major contributor to the Western Hort

plant sale table. She can be relied upon to bring plants for the show-and-tell portion of our meetings.

Judy cares about people as much as she cares about plants.

Generous and caring are the words Lorena Gorsche and other friends use to describe her. She is proactive

in getting people together. Like asking Ellen Frank to room with her on a trip to Chile. And organizing friends to visit Betsy Clebsch. She goes out of her way to make people she meets feel welcome, appreciated

and heard. She has recruited people to become involved with Western Hort. Judy is the person most responsible for getting Janet Hoffman involved. Without her generosity, I would not still be attending these meetings, because I do not drive at night. She called me up one day in 2015 and asked if I needed a lift.

If you have ever received an email from her, you will know her sign off is: “If I rest, I rust.” That is a perfect motto for this energetic, caring, very active contributor to the well being of Western Hort.

I give you this year’s Founder’s Award recipient, my friend, the one and only Judy Wong!!

— Glenda M. Jones, Dec. 2022

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