Not all SLI members are officers in the Society, nor are they Newsletter writers or iris hybridizers. Many members come to activities to meet with friends, look at the irises in tour gardens, and enjoy the fun or just to support a spouse. All of this applied to our late friend and SLI member, Helene Mertzweiller. She was more interested in cutting and arranging flower stalks than in growing them, but she was a true supporter of the Society activities and the Louisiana irises themselves.
It is sad to lose a member and friend like Helene, who died January 22, 2004, in Baton Rouge, La., after several years in a nursing home. Helene was 90 years old. Helene went to meetings with her husband Joe, took all the garden tours, attended judging schools, and sat in on slide shows and programs. She loved to have groups come to their garden or to their home for meals. Some of you will recall those big meals she prepared for Board or committee meetings.
Helene was an active member of many gardening groups including the Louisiana Garden Club Federation. She was especially interested in flower arranging and was a garden Master Judge Emeritus. She was also active in the Baton Rouge Art League and the St. J ames Episcopal Church, where she helped beautify the church yard and arranged large floral displays for special occasions.
Helene maintained a beautiful home and was a very gracious hostess. I was pleased to hear that her daughter Marsha and husband would be renovating and residing in the Mertzweiller home in Baton Rouge, which has been vacant for several years.
The Mertzweiller's visited me several times a year and Helene always brought me something pretty she had bought. A tall green glass vase she gave me is my best Louisiana iris container. We attended several American Iris Society conventions together and she was on that fun trip with Australian irisarians John Taylor and Graeme Grosvenor when we went to see iris gardens in Dallas and Oklahoma in 1994. On a visit to my home in 1996 after the local garden tours were over, we let Helene cut anything in the garden for making arrangements. She ended up using most of my containers and making more arrangements than I had places for them! We all had a lesson in arranging Louisiana irises.
Helene was a native of Fall River, Mass., and she married Joseph K. Mertzweiller after they met during World War II. They celebrated their 50th anniversary before Joe's death in 1997. She is survived by three children, Jo Ann Slaughter, Robert Kern Mertzweiller, and Marsha Susan Runnels; by a grandson and granddaughter, a sister, two brothers, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the SLI Newsletter in the Spring 2004 edition.