The death of Benjamin Andreason on Oct. 22 left the Brookings community without a rhododendron expert, but also a wonderful person who touched so many lives.

Those are the words of local gardener and author Jerry Holcomb. Holcomb got her very first rhododendron from Andreason and he helped her to plant it at her home.

Andreason was the owner and proprietor of Andreasons Nursery and Greenhouse on Carpenterville Road.

He owned the business for more than 30 years, and in that time he built the nursery and his reputation as a rhododendron expert.

Although the nursery had several different kinds of plants and trees, rhododendrons were his speciality. He introduced the Yakushimanum rhododendron to the area.

He spoke to the Garden Club about the flowers once a year and it was usually standing room only, said Karen Munson, a Garden Club participant.

Andreason was always interested in plants. Rhododendrons were the first plants he worked with.

Vangie Andreason, his widow, said when he first began growing the plants, he bought 200 of them and lined them up at their home on Carpenterville Road. She watered them and it took eight hours to do so because they had gravity water flow.

Still, she was supportive of his gardening interests and his desire to learn more.

He looked things up. He learned from other nursery people. He could retain it because he loved it, Andreason said.

She added that Ben tried everything. He built a greenhouse, did landscaping and helped people to design their own landscaping projects.

He often gave children tours of the nursery and he helped them to plant a tree at Kalmiopsis Elementary School.

He also donated rhododendron books to the library.

He was a very generous person. He always brought plants to his Garden Club talks and he would give them to people, said Holcomb.

Whenever I went to the nursery he would say Im glad you came. I have a new rhody youll just die for. He was very enthusiastic, she said. It was more than a nursery, it was an experience.

Norm Hanscam worked for Andreason when he was just out of high school. He remembers that Andreason never did anything half-way. He was never afraid of taking the path less traveled.

Vangie will continue to run the nursery and keep Bens work alive.

He was a legend in the community. We will all miss him, Holcomb said.