Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Larabee Story, an Addendum


San Diego Botanic Garden, Photo credit Brittany C.

The tradition of giving back to their community did not end with the death of Joseph B. Larabee (1833-1913).  In fact, his grandson, Charles Larabee, and his wife, Ruth Robertson Baird, have generously given to the people of San Diego a magnificent Botanic Garden.  Their story will serve as a coda to this series about the Larabee family.  The father of Charles was Frederick Delos Larabee (1868-1920), the son of Joseph Delos and Angeline Larabee, and the middle brother of Nora Larabee.  His parents had left Stafford, although the Larabee businesses established by Charles' grandfather continued to be the family business.

Charles and Ruth Robertson Baird grew up within a block of each other in Kansas City, Missouri.  Her parents were also quite successful, and Ruth graduated from Vassar College in 1926, majoring in Latin.  Charles and Ruth married on June 3, 1926, a few days after her graduation.  They both loved adventure and the out-of-doors, and early in their marriage they sailed round trip from Kansas City to Chicago and back, by navigating the Missouri, Mississippi, and Illinois Rivers.  Ruth taught school, and Charles became co-owner of "The Garden Shop," a 40 acre nursery of trees, evergreens, shrubs, and perennials.  He lectured on gardening and trees, and later gained a reputation as a photographer of the Southwest.

In 1942, Ruth bought 10 acres, with a small cottage, in Encinitas, California, and they left their home in the Midwest to move into the modest ranch in California.  Eventually Ruth named the property "El Rancho San Ysidro de las Flores," and they began collecting plants.  Sadly, they divorced, but Ruth remained on the property.

In 1957, Ruth donated the entire 26.5 acres she then owned to the County of San Diego, to be preserved as a park for public enjoyment.  Despite their divorce, Charles continued to take an interest in Ruth's ranch and garden, sometimes adding plants from his travels to the collection.   

Shadow Mountain

Charles managed the Larabee Family Trust until his death in February of 1968.  His name is inscribed on a crypt in the Larabee Family Mausoleum in Stafford, Kansas; however, his two step children removed his ashes and scattered them in the desert from atop Shadow Mountain, which he loved, along with the ashes of their mother, his second wife.

Ruth continued her charitable giving after leaving California and had eventually returned to Shawnee Mission.  On December 26, 1969, Ruth was staying in the Crown Hotel in Saffron Walden, Essex, England, when a fire broke out and she perished.  Her remains were cremated, and she is buried near her mother and father in Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

(Thank you to "Cultivating Their Place in History:  The Story of Ruth and Charles Larabee,)

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

That is quite a family. Thank you for their story.