A Tribute to Charles Jenkins

Compiled by Deborah Nolan

Charles and his wife Doris
Charles Jenkins and his wife Doris
Charles Jenkins, winner of the 2009 AIS Hybridizer Award, passed away March 5, 2009 at age 90. He was a contributing member of our society for years. Whether it was a flyer that needed copying or busses for a trek that needed chartering, he pitched in. He was just as excited as the rest of us at the Spring Show. He encouraged those interested in hybridizing, and always had a smile and pleasant greeting for friends. Here are some of the ways we remember him:

I was privileged to know "Charlie" while we were members of the Sun Country Iris Society.  One of the first times I met him he was lining out seedlings and he could plant them faster than a machine.  One Sunday  he had us for a visit to his home in Scottsdale.  We were there for most of the afternoon while he introduced us to some of his "stars" and told of his future hopes for them.  Even the bougainvillea on his fence were astonishing.  He did enjoy his plants and loved genetics.
- Marge Larson, Sedona, AZ

Photo of Clara Ellen
Photo of Jenkins' Clara Ellen (1997)
One day we went to Shepard's Iris Garden to look at his Spurias, one of my favorite flowers. Charlie saw us and took us on a tour of his new spurias. What a treat. As Jerry and I walked down the rows Charlie said, "show me your favorite one." I fell in love with a grayish lavender one and told him "that's my favorite". He said "I like that one also". We didn't think any more of it, saw the rest of the spurias and left. Later we came back to place our order and there was "Carole's Choice." It didn't become a favorite of everyone, but it certainly became a favorite of mine. What a wonderful, kind, generous man. He always took time to talk and visit with everyone who came to see his spurias. We will miss him.
- Jerry and Carole Spiess, Phoenix, AZ

Photo of Galaxy Lord
Photo of Jenkins'
Galaxy Lord (2008)
Charles was a special friend to Gene and me. We took him to SCIS meetings several times when his eyesight no longer allowed him to drive and thus got to know him very well. He was always a kind and gentle man. We continue to enjoy the cactus he gave us, especially the beautiful blooms. He is sorely missed.
- Gene and Eloise Koonce, Scottsdale, AZ

Photo of Amanda's Eyes
Photo of Jenkins' Amanda's Eyes
I felt so honored when I was asked to present the AIS Hybridizer Award to Charles; I had always respected and admired him. We hoped that Charles could attend our club’s 2010 Christmas Party where we would give him the award, but he was not able to do that, so we showed the beautiful award to all our members at the party. We planned a time when we could take the award to Charles. Amanda Nolan asked if she could go with us. Charles had named one of his seedlings Amanda’s Eyes because it is the color of her eyes. It was a special day when Amanda, her Mom Deborah and I met with Charles and his wife Doris. We presented Charles with the award, we took pictures and we had a good visit. I am so pleased that I was able to be part of this memorable day.
– Ardi Kary, Scottsdale, AZ

Photo of Butter Ripples
Photo of Jenkins' Butter Ripples (2003)
Charles Jenkins has been such a blessing to the world with his multitude of talents, kindness, gentleness, patience and ability to hybridize. We first met him through Shepherds Iris Gardens where he had his spuria iris collection and hybridizing. Gary called him “Doc”. He then came to work for Gardeners World for a number of years working on crosses of a number of different plants. When Shepherds was downsizing he needed a location for his spuria iris breeding program and brought that to our 1.5 acres at our Gilbert home. We used to have sheep and had gotten out of that project so his irises were planted in the pasture. He came and tended them with such patience waiting for the new ones to progress to bloom and see if there was anything new and different and shorter plants. He said Doris always cut off some of the stalk so he was breeding for shorter plants. He spent days there with his projects, took a nap in the chair and went back to work. It was a sad day when he called to say that he and Doris wanted to visit with us. He said he could no longer drive to get to our home and had to retire from that project. We have kept his spurias watered and cared for but sadly don’t have the time yet to carry on his hybridizing. In May 2007 we joined the SCIS (Sun Country Iris Society) to learn more about irises. We came with buckets of spurias to share and were welcomed and invited to be a garden for the 2009 Regional Trek. That turned out to be a joyous occasion with more enjoying Charles spurias. We still don’t have proper identification but his spurias are flourishing. Charles’ contribution to the world was his breeding of triticale, cross of wheat and rye that has been a major contribution to the world food source. The world has truly been blessed by Charles Jenkins.
- Gary and Sharon Petterson, Phoenix, AZ

Charles and Ardi Kary
Jenkins Receiving the 2009
Hybridizing Medal from Ardi Kary
As time went by, we got to know the man behind the iris. He was a man of great faith, and cherished his family. He understood that great things require patience and time. His keen eye and natural curiosity lead to a career in plant genetics and the development of triticale. Not just another grain, this durum wheat-rye hybrid proliferates in poor soils, resists disease, and yields higher quantities of quality protein and nutrition than just wheat or rye alone.

Hybridizer Medal
Jenkins' 2009 Hybridizing Medal
But he was not satisfied with success in the test fields. He traveled the world, even going behind the Iron Curtain, to meet with leaders of other countries, introducing them to this new grain that could feed their hungry people. There was a higher purpose to his hybridizing, and he followed through. It is fortunate when a person’s natural talents dovetail with professional opportunity. It is rare when those talents can serve as such a blessing to one’s fellow man. Charles knew that, and he was humbled by it.

Humbled, yes, but fiercely determined to achieve his hybridizing goals even if it was “just” a pretty flower. He was excited to see a new spuria cross open or to test its mettle as a seedling in an AIS spring show or garden trek. He was often seen in the fields wearing that safari hat, carefully examining new blooms and growth patterns, making notes in his notebook.

I’ll remember Charles as a friend, someone who’s work in hybridizing brings my family particular joy each spring when the iris bloom. But I’ll remember him best, not for his plants, but for his commitment and actions to help people live better lives the only way he knew - through the use of his God-given gifts. His family suggests donations be sent in his name to Outreach International, an all-volunteer organization he supported since its inception over 30 years ago, at P. O. Box 210, Independence, MO 64051 or www.outreach-international.org.

See also AZCentral Obituary
footer ornament
© 2009-2021 American Iris Society. All rights reserved.