Monday, March 4, 2013

He "Fooled" with Camellias ...

 Father Hayes sits on church steps with younger group. Handwritten on back "About 70 yrs. ago - Catholic School in Brookhaven". Back row - standing is Guy Turnbough, Tom Decell, Peter Phillips, Albert Lilly Becker, unknown. Middle row - Phillip Panzica, W.E "Teenie" Becker, F.F. "Boozie" Becker II, Father Hayes, Elsie Moody, unknown, unknown. Front row - seated - Frances Bertoli (Mullens), unknown, Katurah Higgins, Marie Caneterio?, Louis Oader, unknown, and Ester Bertoli Grice. (Brookhaven, MS) -- LLF Library caption
Boozie B or Tomorrow's Dawn, most likely Boozie B -- Photo Courtesy of Bettie Hatcher Cox

"I've done most everything. I fool with Camellias, I have a yard full of them, a greenhouse full of them. As I've gotten older it's gotten to be a little bit more than I can handle, like every body else takes on something, they take on more than they can handle. I have had to curtail my activities some in that area because I can't take the physical strain of going out and working all day long like I used to," Boozie Becker in a Library interview, Aug. 22, 1991, age 80.

He was a banker for most of his life, a civic-minded member of the Brookhaven Community who was not one to brag.  A husband and a father, a veteran of the U.S. Army, he did a lot more than "fool" with Camellia Japonicas.

If you Google Ferdinand Francis "Boozie" Becker II you will get any number of hits from all around the world referencing his work with the beloved "Japanese rose."

He cultivated at least three crosses, the Boozie B, Miss Adeline, and the Tom Perkins, named respectively for himself, his wife and high school sweetheart, Adeline Moreton Becker, and Brother Tom Perkins, his good friend and fellow Camellia lover.

Born in 1910, he received his nickname from his older sister, although according to the library interview, the family was never certain how the name Boozie came to apply.  His mother seemed to recall that her daughter was trying to say brother and it came out wrong.  Whatever the case, Boozie became his nickname for life.

The third photo is of our wedding cake at our reception at Edgewood in November of 1983. Adorning the cake, made by Janie's Pastry, are hand-picked prize Camellias lovingly grown by Mr. Becker.

It was his wedding gift to us, probably the most beautiful surprise I had ever received.  I can still see Mr. Becker, shyly standing before us, a box lid laden with exquisite and stunningly perfect flowers of varying shades. Unaware of Mother's plan to use actual flowers on the bride's cake, my reaction involved dropping my jaw and simultaneously misting over.  In retrospect, I probably did not properly thank him for his unique wedding gift.

He died in 1995, but his work with Camellias lives on.   The above link in turquoise is to FindaGrave, which contains additional photographs of Mr. Becker.  Below are links that contain additional information and photographs of his horticultural work for those interested.,136,137,167&pageid=524

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