September 1, 2014

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Jerry Conrad, 69 Print E-mail

Jerry Conrad, 69, of Plymouth, Fla., formerly of Falmouth, passed away on Monday, January 14, 2013.

He was preceded in death by parents Allen W. and Mary A. Conrad.

Jerry is survived by brother, Russ (Penny) Conrad and sisters, Pam (Carl) Beck of Georgetown, Ohio, and Jill (Paul) Hall of Williamsburg, Ohio.

A special memorial celebration was held, with his friends from Central Florida, in the Camellia Room at beautiful Leu Gardens in Orlando. A “Celebration of Jerry Conrad’s Life” will also be held in Falmouth later this spring for family and friends in this area.

Jerry followed much the same daily routine from the early 80s. He would tend to a portion of his nine acres of camellias and then check and document the weather. The folks at the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Fla. recognized something was wrong when Jerry didn’t call to report the daily weather readings at his station in his role as a cooperative observer.

“Since 2001 he called every single day,” said meteorologist-in-charge, Bart Hagemeyer of the weather service. “He didn’t call January 7, and the report didn’t come in again January 8. We called Erinon Nursery (Jerry’s nursery) and were told he was taken by ambulance to the emergency room the day before.” Jerry suffered multiple strokes before dying Monday, January 14. He was 69.

Born in Falmouth, Ky., Jerry attended Falmouth School and graduated from Pendleton Memorial High School. In 1965 he graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in education. He taught high school English and History in Northern KY and then moved to Central Florida in 1968. After teaching one more year Jerry began a nearly 25-year career with Disney World during and after its construction. Jerry worked at designing and setting up Disney stores. Though he liked the job, it served only as a means to support his dream of having his own camellia nursery.

Never was he known to have a green thumb, most thought Jerry would become a scientist or a doctor. Jerry's brother, Russ said, “When people asked what Jerry was up to, I would tell them he was doing everything you never thought he would do.” We all thought Jerry would become a laboratory research scientist and would never have dirty fingernails.

He did become a scientist – and one with dirty fingernails. A scientist with camellias – a title well earned, as Jerry was said to have the best camellias in Central Florida. His name is mentioned in many online forums and sites about the popular decorative lawn plant. He had no secrets, especially his use of organic gardening methods to bring about such nice products. His family has been told by lots of people that he was a mentor, providing tips that even the dirt was not the same when it came to camellias. But as often as he would reveal his secrets to growing the best and brightest camellias, he was very competitive when it came to flower shows, at which he often received top honors.

“People said he would win so many flower shows that he would frequently return the trophy telling them to use it for next year," said his brother. “He was competitive but modest.”

After his Disney career, Jerry dedicated all his time to growing camellias, continually changing production methods to produce improved plants and flowers. He sold camellias as far away as Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolinas.

When Jerry’s knees became arthritic and he could not walk to tend the plants, he used a golf cart to get around the nursery.