Harold Franklin Winters was born in Nowata, Oklahoma in 1913. He was the son of the late Calvin Treat Winters and Christie Updike Winters. Growing up in Broken Arrow, OK he developed an interest in horticulture on his family’s property. In 1940 he received a B.S. degree from Oklahoma State University, followed by a M.S. degree from Ohio State in 1942. He later continued with graduate studies at the University of Maryland in the fields of Horticulture, Botany and Plant Breeding. Mr. Winters worked for nearly 40 years for the USDA, starting in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico where he was involved in the war effort to produce anti-malarial drugs from the bark of the cinchona tree. The Winters family enjoyed their years in Puerto Rico, became fluent in Spanish, and loved the culture, the food and the people. His work with the U.S. government began with working for the 1940 census and starting in 1943 continued with the USDA.
From 1956 to 1980 Mr. Winters was engaged in plant introduction at Beltsville, MD. He traveled and collected plants, seeds and cuttings in the West Indies, Cuba, Central and South America, Europe, the Philippines, Java, and Papua New Guinea. While in the latter country in 1970, on a four-month cooperative expedition organized by Longwood Gardens and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, he collected and sent to the United States the parents from which the New Guinea Impatiens were bred. The 1978 “Time-Life Gardening Yearbook” included a lengthy article named “Taming the Wild Impatiens” which described the adventurous New Guinea expedition and told of the early hybridization efforts using the plants that were introduced to the United States by Harold Winters and Joseph Higgins. By 1999 the wholesale value of the New Guinea Impatiens surpassed $50 million per year. At the time of his retirement he was Chief of the Germplasm Resources Laboratory at Beltsville. In 1984 Harold Winters was the recipient of the Frank N. Meyer Medal for Plant Genetic Resources, given to an individual in recognition of distinctive service to the National Plant Germplasm System. The award is named for the plant explorer who discovered the Meyer lemon during his 1905 expedition.
During the 1970’s the Winters family acquired a farm outside of Ridgely, MD where Mr. Winters and his son bred daylilies, daffodils and native Rosemallow Hibiscus. Two selections of Hibiscus were patented for commercial production, most notably “Sweet Caroline” named for the county where the farm is located.
Following retirement much time was devoted to family history and the publication of a book on Winters genealogy. He and Mrs. Winters enjoyed traveling and gardening. At age 100 Mr. Winters continued to prune his hedges and propagate plant material.
In 1949 Harold married Jeannette Bell from Montclair, New Jersey, the love of his life, whom he had met in Puerto Rico. Jeannette “Ginnie”, passed away in 2008. He continued to reside at Riderwood Retirement Community in Silver Spring until his passing on December 8, 2019 at the age of 106.
Survivors include a son, Harold F. “Chip” Winters, Jr. of Ridgely MD, a daughter, Evalyn Winters Hartline (Joseph) of Annapolis; a sister, Alice Boaz of Richardson, TX; two grandsons: Jesse Hartline and Kyle Hartline; two great-grandsons, Atticus and Kai; a nephew and numerous nieces of whom he was very fond.
An 11 AM graveside service will be held on Monday, December 16th in the Denton Cemetery located at 24865 Meeting House Rd. Denton, MD 21629.
Gifts in memory of Harold F. Winters can be made to the Riderwood Staff Appreciation Fund, 3110 Gracefield Rd. Silver Spring, MD 20904.
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Riderwood Staff Appreciation Fund
3110 Gracefield Rd., Silver Spring MD 20904