Gordon E. Jones
ONEONTA — Gordon E. Jones, former director of Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, and a former resident of Penn Yan, Oyster Bay, and Stanley, died on Dec. 16, 2013, at his home in Oneonta. The love of his life, his wife of 66 years, Thelma or “Thelm” as he affectionately called her, was at his side together with other family members.
“Gordie,” as he was called by his Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity brothers at Cornell, regretted missing his 70th reunion this past spring. Cornell played an important part in his life. It was there that he formed deep friendships with his fraternity brothers which would last a lifetime, studied ornamental horticulture, where he met Thelma on a blind date (engineered by her beloved sister, Alice, and Gordon’s fraternity brother, Jim) and where he participated in ROTC.
After graduation he served in the U.S. Army in the European theater with the 17th Airborne Division, flying by glider with artillery equipment onto the Continent behind German lines and acting as the aide to General Joseph V. Phelps. Upon leaving the Army with the rank of Captain, he joined Robson Seed Company in Hall, and was in charge of flower seed research and seed trials. This explains how our family happened to appear in Robson Seed Catalogs chomping down sweet corn in advertisements.
In 1957, he became the Director of Planting Fields Arboretum. He loved Planting Fields: the camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, and green houses filled with orchids. All were his pride and joy and his ability to provide the Latin name for every tree and flower as he walked the grounds continues to amaze. The synoptic garden there, which he designed, bears his name.
But his real passion was his own vegetable garden. He loved nothing more than to walk behind his cultivator pushing it furrow by furrow, reaching down to sow the seeds of his vegetable crop by hand, seeds with names such as Seneca Chief, Bodacious and Sugar Baby, looking forward to the harvest and bringing fresh food to the table.