by Marie Caillet
The Society for Louisiana Irises Distinguished Merit Award for 1993 was presented to Barbara (Mrs. Ira S.) Nelson by Aline Arceneaux. This is the sixth time the award has been given to recognize outstanding contributions to the Society and in promotion of Louisiana irises.
Barbara Nelson, the wife of the late Ira S. Nelson, came to Lafayette, Louisiana in 1941, the year the Society for Louisiana Irises was organized. She was busy that first decade rearing a family of four children, but was always involved with iris society activities. Their home was a meeting place for people interested in the native irises, for Society Board Meetings and for representatives of the American Iris Society that came to see what we were doing. In these early years we were an unknown factor and a curiosity to the American Iris Society!
Barbara was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of the Society in 1964 and served until her retirement in 1978. This job in the early years included putting out the Newsletters, planning the annual meetings, ordering show supplies, answering all the mail and doing many other jobs. She served on the Publication Committee and edited the 1976 Special Publication. She wrote articles for several national magazines and co-authored the chapter on Louisiana irises in the AIS book, The World of Irises.
The Service Award given by our Society was presented to Mrs. Nelson in 1966. She has attended all the annual meetings and was instrumental in coordinating the Garden Club of Lafayette show with our annual iris show. For many years Barbara invited all the out-of-town people to her home for lunch on Fridays before the meeting started on Friday night. Her garden is always open to see during the meeting weekend and she is always helping at the shows. There are few in our Society that have been connected so closely with all the activities over these 53 years and have helped to promote Louisiana irises and the Society for Louisiana Irises.