The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

August 2, 2013

BIELEMA: Bickelhaupts leave lasting legacy

CLINTON — I remember reading long ago a quote that likened the death of an elderly person to the loss of a tall, towering tree — one that stood out in a grand manner in the landscape of a city’s history.

I think of that quote now in the wake of 97-year-old Frances Bickelhaupt’s death last weekend.

Bickelhaupt, along with her husband, Bob, founded the Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton, dedicating more than 40 years of their lives to the mission of creating a public garden that with its 600 conifers and 800 other plants, bushes and trees is considered one of America’s greatest outdoor museums.

Several years ago, a few years before Bob’s death, I had the opportunity to sit down with this amazing couple at their home on the grounds of the arboretum just after their daughter, Francie, took me on a guided tour of the arb.

We sat at a table and I listened to the couple tell their story of why they decided to create an arboretum so many years ago.

They told the story of how the Dutch elm trees in Clinton, which at that time were the most commonly planted trees in the city, were dying from Dutch elm disease. I will always remember that interview and how Bob became emotional when talking about the effects of that disease on the city’s landscape. It led them, they explained, to become determined to learn more about botany, visit botanical centers and arboretums and take classes on the subject.

They continued to work toward the goal of selecting appropriate trees with the proper space to prevent disease from ravaging the city landscape ever again.

In the early 1970s, Bob resigned from his automobile business and they focused their time developing the dream. They planted trees and kept detailed records; dealt with weather-related plant issues; and through outreach, shared what they had learned by teaching others.

They started with 10 acres, but grew the arboretum — which continues to operate as a private foundation and is endowed in perpetuity as a gift to Clinton — to 14 acres. Thousands of people tour the landmark each year; many others take part in specially planned programs, weddings and events such as Arts at the Arb.

As a couple, Bob and Frances were members of many organizations, including the International Society of Arboriculture, APGA, Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, Municipal Arborists, Urban Foresters, American and Midwest Midwest Hosta Society, International Lilac Society and Ornamental Crabapple Society and are charter members of American Conifer Society. They received many awards for their work from educational institutions and national and state agencies.

The couple’s connection to the community is both deep and wide with their creation of the arb, family ties and civic involvement — all of which will no doubt be remembered at an upcoming joint celebration of life service planned for next week.

They are a couple to be forever remembered for their legacy and — like two beautiful, long-lived trees — the lasting impressions they made on this city.

Charlene Bielema is the Editor of the Clinton Herald. She can be reached at cbielema@clintonherald.com.

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Take a 'National Night Out'

    For one night every year, communities across the country celebrate National Night Out, a nationwide initiative to fight crime and promote safe communities.

    July 31, 2014

  • David Evers Evers' duck decoy hits auction block

    From just a block out of a basswood tree, David Evers creates award-winning pieces of artwork.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Well affected by mercury spill is working again

    Mercury remains in one of Clinton’s Archer Daniels Midland wells, stemming from a November 2013 spill. But according to an independent study, threat levels are below Iowa Department of Natural Resources standards.
    The affected Well No. 4 returned to operation earlier this month.

    July 31, 2014

  • Blake Holovach Holovach converting back to a starting pitcher

    When Blake Holovach takes the mound tonight along the Mississippi River in Davenport, it’ll be in the first inning, which he wasn’t accustomed to in the past.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Relay for Life: Stepping toward awareness

    Statistics reveal that cancer continues to remain the second most common cause of death in the United States, claiming one out of four deaths every day.

    July 31, 2014

  • Holly Youngquist Friends of the Library book sale is underway

    Friends of the Library Book Sale is open now. The sale is open to all until 8 p.m. today and on Friday, Aug. 1, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Finally, Saturday, Aug. 2, is box day. From 9 a.m. to  3 p.m., books will sell at $3 per box.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Cremation service helped pet owner in her time of need

    I wanted to share some positive news about a business located in Clinton that I’m guessing most residents aren’t aware even exists. It’s Northridge Pet Cremation on Main Avenue and for me they were recently a godsend.

    July 31, 2014

  • Darryl Hogue Fulton superintendent settles in to new position

    One month into the permanent River Bend School District superintendent job, Darryl Hogue has experienced the long hours, stress and the learning curve that comes with any new position.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video