Joseph K. Mertzweiller of Baton Rouge, LA was honored by the American Iris Society at their annual convention in May. He was awarded the AIS Hybridizer's Medal for his research and development of the first tetraploid Louisiana irises. This award is voted by the AIS Board of Directors upon the recommendation of the Honorary Awards Committee. Joe attended this convention in Indianapolis and was present at the Awards Banquet to receive the medal.
Joe credits his interest in plants and especially Louisiana irises to several things: First, to his early boyhood which was spent in the outdoors north of the city of New Orleans, where he saw colonies of I.giganticaerulea and I.virginica growing. Some of these he collected and planted in his parents' garden. Second, through his wife's garden club activities, he had the good fortune to meet Claude Davis and Ike Nelson, two of the real forces behind the Society for Louisiana Irises in the early years.
He began hybridizing Louisiana irises in 1954 and began his tetraploid project in 1964. His first two tetraploids, PROFESSOR CLAUDE and PROFESSOR IKE, were introduced in 1973. Since then, others have been developed by him and other hybridizers, but the research continues.
Joe Mertzweiller joined the Society for Louisiana Irises in 1953 and he and his wife have attended all the meetings and entered most of the shows. He has won many Lafayette Show awards, especially on his seedlings. PRESIDENT HEDLEY was a seedling winner before it was named and introduced. He served as President two terms, was Chairman of the Scientific Committee and has been Chairman of the Publication Committee for many years. Presently, he is the Chairman of the committee that is working on the writing of a book on Louisiana irises. He has also been a faithful contributor to the Newsletter and the Special Publications. He was voted the Society's Service Award in 1967. Joe is a Master Judge of AIS and has had many articles printed in the AIS Bulletin. He is also an active member of the Louisiana Society for Horticultural Research. .
Joe was born and reared in New Orleans. He received his BS degree in chemistry from Loyola University in 1941. He later attended the University of Detroit and received his Master's degree in 1943.
While serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, Joe met his wife, Helene, of Fall River, Mass. They have a son, two daughters and two grandchildren. He has recently retired from nearly forty years of work with the Exxon Research Laboratories of Baton Rouge in the petroleum and petrochemical research area. This has given him more time to devote to his irises, to travel, to visit his grandchildren in Dallas and to do endless writing and editing of material for the "book". (Editor's Note: The Louisiana Iris, First Editon, published by SLI)
The Society will owe Joseph K. Mertzweiller another type medal when this masterpiece gets finished and printed!