In Memory: Irene Beauregard

Irene was a member of RIWPS for more than thirty years starting in 1990.  For many of these years she both actively shared her extraordinary knowledge of plants and her professional landscape talents to foster the mission of RIWPS and forged a shared sense of community among volunteers and members alike.

Irene readily assumed the role of plant expert, educating volunteers and responding to the requests of members for advice on how and what to plant. She offered programs on gardening with natives, especially on planting for seasonal interest and with a focus on design.  In 1996 she served as one of representatives of RIWPS at a native plant conference cosponsored by RIWPS and fourteen other organizations.

Committed to building the organization, Irene served on the Membership Committee and the Harvest Dinner Committee. She also helped with and made donations to the Silent Auction Fundraisers.

For almost a decade Irene was a key member the Flower Show Committee and the wider team that created award winning educational native plant exhibits at the February Rhode Island Spring and Garden Show in Providence. In 1994, the first year of the exhibit, she served as co-chair. The exhibit, Bridge to Discovery: A Woodland Trail at the Nettie Jones Nature Preserve recreated a miniaturized snapshot of this location at the URI W. Alton Jones Campus, complete with a small replica of a bridge constructed from pieces of discarded wood from a bridge that was being replaced at the preserve. Visitors to the show welcomed RIWPS’ quiet woodland as a change from the formal garden exhibits and it received the Exhibitors’ Choice Award as the best of the twenty-seven demonstration gardens. Irene enjoyed the challenge of creating scenarios, sometimes with over 1,000 native plants representing over 100 native species, in mid winter. She took delight in returning many of these plants to the landscape where she nurtured them to flourish once again.

Above all, Irene is remembered by those who knew her at RIWPS for her, graciousness, kindness and generosity.


In Memory: Sandra Thompson

For more than 15 years, Sandra was a tireless, meticulous volunteer, who wanted things done right. In 2013 she was honored with a Lifetime Service Award.

Sandra’s first joined the Garden Tour Committee, where she assumed a leadership role in 2008 and was active in the Flower Show Committee. Both benefited from her organizational and recruiting abilities. Her long-term focus however was cultivating plants and encouraging their use in home gardens.

Sandra was a long-time faithful participant in Seed Starters East and a member of the Plant Sale Committee.  She learned more about propagation techniques, expanded her repertoire of native plants and worked to expand the plant sales. Under her leadership on the Plant Sale Committee from 2013 through 2016, the June plant sale –initially a modest event that offered both native plants and regular garden plants — became the Best Native Plant Sale in Rhode Island, offering over 3,200 natives. Thanks to Sandra’s vision and keen business sense, our plants sales became our sole fundraising effort. In addition to responding to the increasing demand for native plants, and educating the public on their ecological and aesthetic value, we learned that our sales could be organized to produce needed income.

There was no doubt, that once Sandra had set the course, the end result would be achieved. Volunteers gravitated to help.  And they all came to know her husband Paul, who supported every aspect of her work.  Sandra’s efforts to recruit RIWPS members and friends willing to donate flourishing native plants from their gardens to the sale were especially noteworthy. A colleague in Seed Starters, appreciating her passion to expand the stock of native plants, accompanied Sandra, even in the rain and cold of early spring, digging and collecting these donations. The Thompson’s home was legendary in East Greenwich as every year, all those plants, now repotted, lined their front walk and long driveway until delivered to East Farm for the sale in early June. When the Thompsons relocated to a smaller home a few years ago, their new location could not accommodate this repotting process and temporary care of so many plants. Sandra arranged for the continuation of this operation at another location. Still on her mission to offer as many plants as possible, her new home had sufficient space for a few stock beds dedicated for plants destined for the sale. She and Paul also established an additional stock bed at the Beechwood Garden, a joint RIWPS and URI Master Gardener Program project.

During all her years of her service including 2010 to 2013 on Board of Trustees, one of which was as interim Vice President, or most recently in 2019 and 2020 when she headed the nominating committee for the Board, Sandra led by example. She respected those she worked with and valued their contributions.  While her accomplishments were many, we will especially miss Sandra as a friend and colleague.


In Memory, Robert Fain and Michael Lapisky

We are saddened by the passing of two RIWPS members.

Robert Fain first joined RIWPS in 2008. In addition to his interest in Rhode Island Plants he worked professionally and personally on social justice issues.  He died last July.  See obituary

Michael Lapisky,  an 11 year member, was known for his willingness to share his knowledge and experience on all things gardening.  Michael died in January of this year.  See obituary


In Memory: Mabel “Sindy” Hempstead

In early December of 2020, at the grand age of 95, RIWPS Life member and former Co-President, Mabel “Sindy” Hempstead passed on.  Sindy was a RIWPS member since 1994 and immediately recruited to serve on the Board, first as Secretary from 1994-1996, then as Co-President with URI Plant Science Prof. Richard Hull, from 1996-1997. Recruited once again in 2003, Sindy served as a Trustee-at-Large from 2003-2008. She was active for many years on the WildfloraRI publication, Walks & Workshops/Program committee and on Botanical Inventory committee. Sindy’s passion was wetland plants, particularly, the water lilies. To capture her spirit take note of the obituary her daughter and fellow RIWPS member, Joyce Hempstead provided.

Many of you may not know Sindy left RIWPS another legacy – the many plant related articles that appeared in our WildfloraRI publication. Links provided. Explore and thank Sindy!

WilfloraRI articles:
Aquatic Adaptation: You can’t turn back the clock (Fall 2010)
Pond Scum (Winter 2011)
The Bladderworts (Winter 2013)
Lousewort: Pirates of the Orobanchaceae (Winter 2015)

Cultivation Notes:
Lysimachia terrestris – Swamp Candles (2008)
Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush (2010)
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp-milkweed (2011)

On the Trail:
Wickford Harbor Islands (2013)

In 2010 Sindy received our Lifetime Service Award. A life well lived and appreciated.

In Memory: Dick (Richard) Donnelly

Dick describing the characteristics of a plant at RIWPS plant sale

With sadness we are sharing the news of the death of Dick Donnelly a RIWPS’ member for 28 years and a wonderful volunteer. Dick was passionate about native plants and generously shared his talents for teaching about them, both informally and in a wide variety of public programs and events. His contributions to the many years of RIWPS’ annual award winning native plant exhibit at the Rhode Island Spring Flower Show and Garden Show in Providence are much remembered. He worked to source these exhibits, securing plants including trees and stones for creating walls, as well as stuffed animals appropriate to the exhibit’s setting. His attention to accurate habitat details was extraordinary.  He also served as a docent using his love of storytelling to create narratives not only to highlight the function and beauty of the wild plants themselves but also the magic and wonder of experiencing the scene in the exhibit. Volunteers recount the year he helped stage a display with an abandoned foundation of a house in the woods and then as docent enthralled children and adults, suggesting that this was the house he had grown up in along with describing how he had played among these woodland plants and creatures and used the products of the plants for many good purposes. Dick also served on the Board of Trustees and in 2008 received a Lifetime Service Award.  We are thankful to have benefitted from his passion, creativity and joy.

Obituary Notice

Sigrid Hewit-transplanting

In Memory: Sigrid Hewitt

With sadness we announce the passing of Sigrid Hewitt, RIWPS member and volunteer, on May 3, 2020. Sigrid brought her strong interest in nature and plants with her when she moved to Rhode Island fifteen years ago. A long time volunteer at Seed Starters West, Sigrid was awarded a Lifetime Service Award in 2018, especially for her contributions to this group.

In Memory: Joan Pilson

With sadness, we announce the passing of RIWPS extraordinary volunteer, Joan Pilson. Joan joined RIWPS shortly after her retirement in 1990 and was soon involved in many aspects of the Society. She was a board member, serving as President from 1993 to 1995 and then as Co-President the following year. Spanning her tenure on the Programs Committee, which included being Chair, and continuing this focus on educational events through her participation in the current Walks & Workshops Committee, Joan created, arranged or oversaw hundreds and hundreds of programs.

Joan was also an original member of Seed Starters. In 1991 when Dorothy Swift suggested having a group dedicated to native plant propagating, Joan arranged the meeting. Within weeks, seeds were germinating. Joan was hooked, becoming a permanent member of Seed Starters and earning a Certificate in Native Plants from Native Plant Trust (formerly New England Wildflower Society). But Joan was also interested in protecting plants in their native habitats and proudly joined RIWPS’s campaign to add Sea Lavender to the list of plants protected by the “Christmas Greens” law, thus prohibiting the collecting or picking of this plant on public lands.

Joan promoted RIWPS’s mission through her work with the Environmental Council of Rhode Island and the Native Plant Trust.  Joan was an overseer of  the NPT and for a number of years served in an Ambassador role for them . One result, a joint RIWPS and NPT Native Plant Certificate Program. Joan received a Rhode Island State Service Award from the Native Plant Trust in 1999.

In recognition of Joan’s contributions in so many different capacities at RIWPS, she was given a Lifetime Service Award in 2011. Leader, organizer, volunteer scout and mentor, docent for native plant exhibits at the Rhode Island Spring and and garden tours, editorial advisor to WildfloraRI, host for Winter book discussions, planning groups and informal gatherings of volunteers at her home along with her husband Michael. Every committee sought out Joan – Special Events, Programs, Walks & Workshops, Seed Starters, Plant Sales, Flower Show, WildfloraRI. Each was made better by her efforts.

Joan gifted RIWPS with her generous and positive spirit, her stamina and spunk. We are very thankful.

Obituary notice.