Remembering Ralph Snodsmith
The world of gardening and horticulture lost one of its nicest people this past Saturday. Ralph Snodsmith, who had been in ill health for years but still managed to do his weekly radio show, finally succumbed to the complications of a broken leg this past Saturday. He was 70.
His obituary appeared in the New York Times today: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/garden/21snodsmith.html.
Ralph and I had been friends for more than a decade, ever since his first appearance at the Bangor Garden Show here in Maine. As graceful and charming as he was intelligent, he possessed a smooth baritone voice ideal for radio and television. What made him successful, though, was a genuine love of people and gardening.
“I never get tired of this,” he would often say when we compared notes from the road. “As long as the people want to have me around, I’ll keep showing up.”
I was a guest on his radio show, The Garden Hotline, at least a half dozen times, including a couple of in-studio appearances at WOR in New York City when my book was published in 2007. That his audience was massive was evident from the way sales instantly jumped even before the show ended. If Ralph endorsed it, people bought it.
He once shared the stage in Bangor, Maine, at the Garden Show with three other titans of the industry, Roger Swain, the late Cassandra Danz and Barbara Damrosch, for an open-mic question-and-answer session — with just one microphone. While Roger, Cassandra (aka Mrs. Greenthumbs) and Barbara all jockeyed for speaking time, gentlemanly and bemused Ralph was content to grin.
My favorite times with him, in fact, were off air and stage. His humor was self-effacing and his affection for his family was always on his sleeve. He was excited to have moved to Virginia fairly recently and vowed to slow his appearances, which always numbered more than 100 a year, sometimes several a day.
He suffered bouts with pneumonia and other ailments in recent years, but his time away from the microphone or gardening public was never long.
“Sorry for not getting back to you sooner but I’ve been inthe hospital and in rehab with for the past 7 weeks and I’m doing better,” he wrote in a note just before Christmas of 2008. “We finally just got moved this week, or should I say, Mary did it. Look forward to seeing you soon.”
We did see each other, two other times, and he seemed more robust at a trade show in Baltimore in 2009. He was still eager to hear the news about the world of organics.
We had talked often in recent years about his slow-but-sure conversion to natural techniques and organic products. Although he still read sponsors’ commercials for synthetic chemical products, he admitted off air that he no longer used the stuff himself. He wondered aloud, too, if some of his own health ailments were due to his frequent exposure to pesticides during his career as a Cooperative Extension agent.
He knew that the gardening world’s wholesale change to organic methods was only a matter of time.
“We’ll just bring them along slowly in your direction,” he said recently. “The key is to do it so they don’t know they’re being pulled.”
He was trying to impart a lesson, I’m sure, but I’m afraid Ralph was a bit more polite than me.
I’m going to miss him terribly.
The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ralph’s memory to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, 10 Patriot Hills Drive, Stony Point, N.Y. 10980. Checks may be made payable to Cooperative Extension. Questions may be directed to Executive Director, Paul Trader, at 845-429-7085 ext. 107 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Condolence cards and notes may be sent to Ralph’s wife Mary and his family via Ralph’s company address:
R. L. Snodsmith
Box 187 Suite 2
44 Mine Road
Stafford, VA 22554