Gardening community loses friend, mentor

On March 1, Bill Kempster passed away at Ayre Manor at the age of 98.

By Loretta Fritz

On March 1, Bill Kempster passed away at Ayre Manor at the age of 98. While his death was not remarkable, his contributions to the South Island gardening community were.

Bill emigrated to Victoria shortly after the Second World War, bringing with him a love of outdoor activity – hunting, fishing, exploring and gardening – and an unstoppable drive to be busy and productive.  He pursued all of these hobbies for decades, but it was through his passion for growing plants that most people came to know him.

Longtime dahlia growers all over the Island knew Bill well.

In the early 1950s, he began hybridizing and exhibiting dahlias throughout the Pacific Northwest and, in the late 1960s, was instrumental in convincing the Victoria Gladiolus and Dahlia Society to join the Pacific Northwest Dahlia Conference.

To this day the renamed Victoria Dahlia Society remains an active member of the PNDConference, which oversees the training and certification of judges and the classification of blooms that present differently (e.g., in form, size or colour) in our climate.

Some years later, Bill installed a dahlia garden at the Horticulture Center of the Pacific. That garden subsequently became the Victoria Dahlia Trial Garden, a sanctioned seedling garden of the American Dahlia Society.

Envisioning a local world-class botanical garden and site for hands-on horticultural training, Bill co-founded the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific in 1979, now home to numerous gardens as well as the accredited Pacific Horticulture College. The Kempster Building acknowledges his enormous contributions as board member and president, labourer and builder, student educator, and volunteer mentor.

Bill’s lengthy involvement with the Saanich Fall Fair is equally estimable. He served as board member and president; he judged fruit, vegetable and/or flower entries; and he put in untold hours as a general labourer and go-getter. He also played a major role in the fair’s 1992 move to its current site on Stelly’s Cross Road.

The Peninsula Garden Club, the Sooke Garden Club, and the Sooke Fall Fair were also long-term beneficiaries of Bill’s desire to encourage local gardeners and gardening. He enthusiastically imparted encyclopedic knowledge of and techniques for growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. He loved demonstrating “how easy it is” to prune a fruit tree or propagate a shrub. Gardening, he insisted, isn’t hard or complicated; it’s trial and error, and it’s fun.

For more than 60 years, Bill found pleasure in gardening. He became a recognized gladiolus hybridizer, a sought-after judge for flower exhibitions and fall fairs, a frequent presenter at garden club meetings, and a teacher and mentor for show judges in training. He even hosted a local Sunday morning radio call-in show about gardening.

Following the 2006 death of Bea, his wife of 62 years, Bill continued living proudly and independently on his own until last summer. His friends are richer for his good humour, generosity, and abiding friendship. The South Island is richer for his legacy of gardening knowledge, his remarkable achievements, and his outstanding volunteerism.

•••

 

Loretta Fritz writes for the Sooke Garden Club.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police seek suspect after woman nearly robbed while getting out of vehicle

Incident occurred before 7 a.m. Feb. 17 in parking lot off Cordova Bay Road

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after cancellations on Friday due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Goldstream Food Bank president Gayle Ireland is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Community Volunteer of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Two-week stint at Goldstream Food Bank turns into 35 years of volunteer service

Goldstream Food Bank’s Gayle Ireland is the 2021 Community Volunteer of the Year

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Most Read