While everyone knows that The Huntington relies on our assortment of volunteers and docents to give tours, answer questions, and be the face of The Huntington, there are some volunteers who choose to remain in the background. They may be too shy to step forward and become docents who give tours each week. Or they may not be physically up to the challenge of walking through the property highlighting various gardens and galleries. They are, however, important cogs in the wheel that keeps The Huntington moving.
One such volunteer was Vickie MacDonald. Vickie spent a great deal of time assisting me in the Plant Sale nursery, repotting plants, potting rooted cuttings, or planting seeds. Vickie also volunteered “deadheading” roses in the Rose and Shakespeare gardens or removing dead fronds that had fallen in the Palm and Jungle gardens. As the director of volunteer programming, Mikki Heydorff, says, The Huntington “was her home away from home.”
Vickie was a charming Southern lady; soft spoken and polite. I’d never heard an unkind word spoken by her. She came in regularly to learn about how to handle, propagate, and maintain plants. She was so excited to be able to find a new plant that she could buy and give to her son for his yard. When she called me “Dear,” I knew it wasn’t false flattery.
Vickie fell ill in this past spring. She would call or have another co-worker pass along messages when she wasn’t up to coming in to work. Always, there’d be a heartfelt apology with her message. I knew it must be horrible for her to miss a day at The Huntington.
In the last months of her life, I visited Vickie as often as I could. She maintained a bright smile and gave heartfelt thanks for the visits. I tried to brighten her room with a few trinkets that were pink—her favorite color. I’d hold her hand and tell her what was happening at The Huntington. I’d bring in my laptop to show her pictures of gardener John Villareal and Shadi Shihab, the floristic gardens curator, whom she both dearly loved. Those visits were so special. I hoped to help her as she’d helped me for the past several years.
Vickie lost her battle and slipped away on July 28. I hope she was able to watch the Olympics opening ceremonies the night before. She had told me that she was really looking forward to them.
Louise Guerin is manager of plant production and sales.