By Marie Caillet
Joseph K. Mertzweiller of Baton Rouge, Louisiana was named the 1991 recipient of the SLI Distinguished Merit Award, officials announced at the Spring, 1992 convention.
Mertzweiller has been a member of the Society for Louisiana Irises and the American Iris Society for more than 40 years. He is a past president of SLI and has served on the board of directors for numerous terms. He was Chairman of the Scientific Committee for a number of years and a member, then chairman, of the Publication Committee for some 25 years. As Publication Committee Chairman, he supervised the publication of the last five Special Publications. He also wrote the booklet on Louisiana Irises which was published by the Louisiana Extension Service and distributed free of charge for many years.
Mertzweiller co-edited the book, The Louisiana Iris, and was author of most of the book's chapters. He is a consistent contributor to SLI Newsletter and has at least one article published yearly in the Bulletin of the American Iris Society. In addition, he has cooperated with staff members of other publications writing about Louisiana irises.
As a member of AIS, he attends annual Conventions and has served two terms as President of the Louisiana Iris Society of America. He served a term as Regional Vice President of AIS and chairman of the AIS Personnel Committee. He received the AIS Hybridizer's Award in 1984 and was voted on AIS Judge Emeritus in 1991.
He has given countless speeches, seminars, clinics and slide shows on Louisiana irises and is in great demand as a judge.
His ground-breaking work in developing tetraploid Louisiana iris cultivars is well-known. He continues his work to produce new tetraploid cultivars, and is enthusiastic about encouraging other hybridizers to enter the field.
Within the Society, Mertzweiller is well-known through 'Joe's Pots," his donations to our annual auction. He pots up seedlings of controlled crosses to sell at the auction, with the buyer taking full ownership of the seedlings. Some of these seedlings have been registered and have won awards. The money from these seedlings become part of the SLI Publication Fund, which has paid for all the Special Publications, the printing of The Louisiana Iris, and other smaller projects.
Mertzweiller, retired as the Head Research Chemist at Standard Oil, lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, Helene. They have two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.
*The Distinguished Merit Award of the Society for Louisiana Irises was established in 1988 to recognize individuals or groups whose exceptional activities or long service have greatly furthered the interests of Louisiana Irises. Nominees for the award are first screened by the special Awards Committee and then presented to the SLI Board of Directors at the Fall Board Meeting. Selection is by secret ballot, and must be unanimous. An individual or group may receive the award only once. To date, three other SLI members have received the award: Marie Caillet in 1988, Charles W. Amy, Jr. in 1989 and Aline M. Arceneaux in 1990. The awardee receives a lovely etched glass-and-wood trophy designed in 1988 by Sandy Duhon and Dorman Haymon.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the SLI Newsletter in the September 1992 edition.