Harold F. Wilkins, Ph.D. age 87, passed away from COVID-19 in Baldwin, Wisc., on Jan. 7, 2021. Preceded in death by father John Harley Wilkins, mother Pauline Ruth (Fox) Wilkins and brother John Harley Wilkins II, he is survived by his devoted partner Bryan Gjevre, extended family and many colleagues and friends.
Born in Cobden, Ill., on Nov. 3, 1933, Harold loved books, bookstores and libraries, newspapers, poetry, letters and flowers. He enjoyed good coffee, new restaurants, classical music and a good story.
Harold received his horticulture doctorate from the University of Illinois, and spent his career teaching and mentoring at Cornell, the University of Florida, the University of Minnesota, and Ohio State, and consulted all over the world. Beloved teacher, he was devoted to helping all of his students reach their goals. He proudly “fathered” 11 Ph.D. students. As the author of more than 200 publications, the recipient of numerous awards, and guest speaker at many seminars and conferences, his impact on the floriculture industry is unquestionable.
Harold influenced horticulture globally. He traveled to Israel, The Netherlands, Russia, Japan, South Africa and Chile, among other countries to collect information for his research. He was a beloved member of the Pearlstein family for over 40 years and led an innovative research and development team at Nurserymen’s Exchange.
As a retirement project in 2005, he and Bryan purchased a nine-acre property near Baldwin, Wisc., and named it Goldfinch Flower Farm. They grew and sold beautiful and unique flowers to local florists and the Mill City Farmers Market. In addition to research, Harold taught floral design and his bouquets were always exquisite. He consistently shared his positive energy and concern; he was described by many as unwaveringly sweet and kind. He believed in having fun, being curious, learning something new, setting goals, sharing with others and asking for help and advice. Shortly before passing, Harold told Bryan he was going “upstairs to recuperate.”
A Celebration of Life will be held this summer, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minn. Burial will be in Anna, Ill. Many thanks to all health care workers during this pandemic — your dedication is unparalleled. We wish to extend our deep gratitude to his medical team at the Baldwin Care Center Campus and Western Wisconsin Health in Baldwin, Wisc. In Harold’s memory, support your local florists and garden centers.