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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.
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.
RIWPS is pleased to be able to support a number of projects related to native plants through our Annual Grants. We thank our members and other donors who make these possible. The recipients of the 2021 RIWPS Annual Grants were announced at the March 13 Annual Meeting.
- NayaBlack, WoonasquatucketRiver Watershed Council ‐ $1,000 ‐ For removal of invasive species and plantings of natives along the river
- SummerGonsalves, Narragansett Indian Tribe ‐ $2,500 ‐ To install a native pollinator garden at the Narragansett Indian Tribe Farm
- MelissaGuillet, WashingtonParkAssociation ‐ $1,000 ‐ To create a pollinator garden at Columbia Park
- ElizabethVarkonyi, URI department of PlantSciences and Entomology ‐ $1,500 ‐ To work on pollen analysis of historical bee specimens
The 2021 RIWPS volunteer awards were announced at the March 13, 2021 Annual Meeting. Well deserved congratulations to ….
On March 13, 2021 Alicia Lehrer, Executive Director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, spoke at our annual meeting about the organization’s work with emphasis an on invasive plants.
Long time RIWPS member and volunteer Garry Plunkett dedicates his efforts to land conservation in his town. Read about his experiences collecting data on a newly acquired property of the Tiverton Land Trust.
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 early December, 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!
On the Trail:
– Wickford Harbor Islands (2013)
In 2010 Sindy received our Lifetime Service Award. A life well lived and appreciated.