by Marie Caillet
Barbara F. Nelson died on Dec. 13,2010 in Collinsville, Ala. Mrs. Nelson was active in the Society for Louisiana Irises since its founding. She was the widow of a leading scientist who was also a pioneer in working with Louisiana irises. The daughter of Leah and James Furnas, Barbara was born Sept. 21, 1913 in Shawnee, OK. Reared in Wichita, Kan., she was a graduate of Friends University in that city. Prior to her marriage she was a secretary with Cessna Aviation and an all American basketball player.
She was married to Dr. Ira S. Nelson and was the mother of four children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. A longtime resident of Lafayette, La., she was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, active in Girl Scouts, and was retired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette College of Agriculture, Horticulture Department as librarian and an instructor.
She had a wide range of gardening interests and served as the president of the Lafayette Garden Club, the Society for Louisiana Irises, and the Louisiana Society for Horticultural Research.
Barbara wrote extensively about Louisiana irises. She was a contributing author to the first edition of The Louisiana Iris, The History and Culture of Five Native American Species and their Hybrids. She also helped with the review and proofreading of manuscripts. At least three Louisiana irises are named after her: 'Barbara Nelson' (Nelson, 1951), 'Mrs. Ira Nelson' (Amy 1969), and 'Professor Barbara' (Mertzweiller, 1990). She also co-wrote with Charlie Arny the Louisiana Irises chapter in The World of Irises, (edited by Warburton and Hamblen) and published in 1978.
Barbara was preceded in death by her parents, her husband and a sister, Ruth Vile. She was survived by her children, Martha Wood, Leah Moffat, Catherine Nelson, and James Thomas Nelson; grandchildren, Ann Wood Tanner, Peter Wood Jr., David Moffat, Barbara Moffat Kuhn, Christine Moffat Monday, and Alice Moffat; great grandchildren Erica Tanner, Christopher Tanner, Gabrielle Tanner, Andrew Moffat, Michael Moffat, Bryson Moffat, Charles Kuhn and Tyler Kuhn.