VERMONT- Kenneth W. Wood, a life-long lover of dahlias and hummingbirds, who readily shared his passions with many--passed away on August 16, 2013 at the age of 69.
While Ken and his doctors had successfully held off advanced prostate cancer for the past five years, it was a separate and unrelated brain cancer that emerged in the past three months that took his life.
A Shorewood Hills native and resident of the Town of Vermont the past 19 years, Ken passed away at Agrace HospiceCare, where birdfeeders and containers of colorful flowers from his own garden had been arrayed outside his patio window.
Ken graduated from University High School in Madison in 1961, and received a B.A. in biology from Earlham College in Indiana in 1965 and M.S. in horticulture from UW-Madison in 1968. He taught three years in the Peace Corps in Liberia.
Ecology, birds and natural habitats became his life's work, as he served as secretary of the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy for 10 years. After leading the Madison Audubon Society as board president, he became a long-time assistant in the Audubon office. And many will remember Ken as an engaging guide at the UW Arboretum, where-over the course of 30 years- he also taught classes, organized conferences and wrote publications on the lilac, crabapple and viburnum collections.
In his work, Ken played an instrumental role in the purchase of the initial 60 for Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary in Columbia County. He helped start the Audubon Seed Sale and the popular annual Audubon Art Fair. For more than 10 years, he organized the Mt. Horeb Area Christmas Bird Count, which engaged many area residents. He also led birding trips to Central and South America on several occasions.
Throughout his life, an interest in and love of flowers and trees and prairies and birds and insects led him to travels in many spots in the world, including Japan, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and most recently to Panama with friends in March of the year.
And it was this love and interest that occupied him on his home site in the Town of Vermont, where he transformed a one-time hayfield and woodland into native prairie and wetland, with displays of over 40 varieties of lilacs, arrays of woody species native to the Ohio River Valley, an annual garden featuring more than 300 varieties of dahlias and dozens of pumpkin varieties. He nicknamed his home site the Sand Ridge Hummingbird and Floral Society.
Ken is survived by his brother Levi and sister-in-law Janet, and by his many, many long-time friends, especially the members of the Friends of Little Bluestem. He was preceded in death by his father, Weston; mother, Jane; sister, Amy; beloved Aunt Polly; and special companions Tajar and Miss Kitty.
A celebration of Ken's life will be held at the UW Arboretum on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 4p.m.
In honor of Ken's memory, his family and friends ask that donations be made to the education program of the UW-Arboretum (1207 Seminole Hwy, Madison, WI 53711).
Donations may also be made to the Madison Audubon Society's Goose Pond Sanctuary (222 S. Hamilton St, Madison, WI 53703), the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy stewardship work in SW Wisconsin (633 West Main Street, Madison, WI 53703), or other Wisconsin nature conservation organizations of the donor's choice. A memorial bench will be placed in Longenecker Gardens of the UW Arboretum to honor Ken.