A Love Letter to My Dad

Don_powellDaddy’s little girl. There’s a reason for that saying. Fathers and daughters often have a very special bond. That was true between my dad and me. Forget about psychology. I don’t really care about the reason why. I simply adored my dad! He is kind-hearted, gentle, quirky, and hard-working. He thinks before he speaks and just like the brokerage commercial, when my dad speaks everyone listens. He has his faults (most of which I inherited) but he is a lovely man.

Don Powell was an only child born to two teachers. When he was young he lived with his parents in several cities around the state of Oregon, where they had teaching positions. He remembers the coastal black-out during World War II. They finally settled back in Corvallis after the death of his grandfather. (I’m a little unclear about all the history.) His dad taught shop and coached the football team at Philomath High School. During Lee Powell’s tenure, the Philomath high school football team won the state championship. His mom, Garland, taught Botany at OSC, as it was called at the time. Don’s father died from lung cancer when he was in high school. He lived in the house on the nursery property that my sister currently occupies. Having grown up on the nursery and living in that house, we The sunken gardenkids know far more about the history of the Schmidt family property than we do of my Mom’s family’s property. Dad has many stories about helping farm the acreage that my grandmother owned. The farm was larger then. Dad’s grandmother, Mrs. Schmidt, sold a portion to the college.

Dad has shared many stories of high school. In my mind, they all revolved around being different, not dressing the same way, not quite fitting in. I think we all feel that way. Dad played football , basketball, and participated in track in high school. He excelled at and enjoyed sports. I have many fond memories of playing softball and basketball with Dad and my brother, Lee. Lee followed in my Dad’s footsteps and excelled at football, basketball and track. Even my baby sister, Erica played basketball in high school. That was the powerful influence of our dad. I didn’t compete in sports, as I am: short, uncoordinated, and shy. However, I did have a minor foray into powderpuff football in college and I can honestly say I enjoy and understand football and basketball.

IMG_5911College followed high school and Dad attended Oregon State College, studying landscape architecture. Again, there are many stories about his buddies at OSC. He eventually opened a nursery and landscape business in Washington with 2 of these buddies. Somewhere in that timeline is a stint in the army. But back to the nursery in Washington because that is how he met my mom. (I wrote about that courtship in a previous blog, so I won’t go into detail here.) My maternal grandfather was known to give a hard time to the men that ultimately married his daughters. But I think he also filled a fatherly role for my dad. It always appeared to me that there was mutual respect between them.

Not too long after they married, my mom and dad moved back to Corvallis to help Dad’s mom with Garland Nursery. Dad brought his talents to the business. He did landscape design, eventually employing several designers. This increased into a landscape construction business. As he took over more of the management, he added his own touch to the business. My mom participated more every year. They were a truly great team! Dad is so artistic. The displays and mini landscapes he created in the nursery were great. He could create an exceptional floral arrangement, too. In addition, he was the expert. So many clients turned to him for answers to their questions. At least for Garland Nursery, the term “Plant Doctor” originated with my Dad. Finally, he had foresight and an ability to adapt to the situation. Dad worked hard. Sometimes I feel like I will never work as hard as my Mom and Dad did.

Personally, I remember hikes through the forested areas across the county highway from the house. We would traipse through brush and native vegetation. It was always educational. Dad shared the names of all the plants. We ended up at a fishing/swimming hole or a hunting site. I particularly remember one such hike when we went to hunt ducks. I’m not sure why my dad wanted to take me, an out-of-shape pre-teen girl hunting. But I loved the hike! When we finally arrived at the duck blind, it was cold. We had brought hot chocolate. For some reason all we did was drink hot chocolate and enjoy the dance of the birds. We never fired a shot! Perhaps that was what my dad needed. I’m not sure but I am so glad that it is still a treasured mutual memory.

Dad, and Mom, believed in giving back to the community. Dad was on the parks commission. He was a long time member of the Corvallis Rotary chapter. Also, he was President of the Retail Chapter of the Oregon Association of Nurseries and finally the President of the OAN. In addition, he served on many committees at the state level of the OAN. Also, he helped start an industry buying cooperative and served on its board for many years.

IMG_5971So what is Dad doing now? Well, he still loves to grow things. He has space by his house where he grows the pumpkins and gourds that we sell in the fall. He starts them in his greenhouse and then plants them out. Dad enjoys helping out with displays at the nursery. Just a few days ago, we asked him to bring up some roses and add to displays at the entry. He was thrilled, as he felt they weren’t being seen where they were. Plus Dad is still the senior male in the Powell clan. Like it or not, all of the Powell girl spouses have to live up to his example. Dad doesn’t expect this from them. It is us, his daughters that ask this of our men. Be sensitive, smart, artistic, hard-working. I didn’t even mention handsome! Oh boy, are you guys in trouble!

About Brenda Powell

I'm one of the owners of a family-owned retail nursery. I have a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. I love to garden and read. My technically savvy but horticulturally challenged husband, Mitch, spends most of his time as slave labor in the garden. Thank goodness he adores me! My goal in this blog is to share my enjoyment of gardening, my love of nature, and my addiction to books. Did I mention I like to cook, too?
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2 Responses to A Love Letter to My Dad

  1. Kathy Malnory says:

    Thank you Brenda for such a lovely Father’s Day love letter to and about your dad. I must come see all of you sometime in the Fall on my way to see my mom in Roseburg. You and your entire family have always been an inspiration to me… and still are. Tell everyone hi for me. Love to your Dad and Mom. Kathy Chretien/Malnory in beautiful Port Angeles, WA.

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