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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
One of the most respected citrus pathologists of our time. Steve was born in Oceanside California, raised and attended schools in California. Graduated with his PhD from UC Davis. He accepted a position at the USDA lab in Orlando in the early 60’s and spent 36 highly productive years dealing with citrus diseases (a major effort was with tristeza). Steve returned to the family farm after retirement, BUT continued to be very active in the citrus industry. He was still involved with a number of research projects, both in Florida and California. It would not surprise me to run into him at the Citrus Experiment Station in Lake Alfred several years after he “retired”. Steve served several years on the California Citrus Research Board as a director.
His list of accomplishments, publications, presentations, awards, etc. would take numerous pages. Let me tell you about Steve Garnsey, the friend. As mentioned above I knew the back door entrance to the USDA lab in Orlando very well. I would drop off samples for Carmen (his long time technician) to process when she ran his research samples. Steve and I would have visits whenever he was in his office. We were involved in a couple of “formal” projects. He was most interested in the annual tree loss from tristeza. We did a survey of a number of groves on sour in the Winter Garden area. Steve wanted to get some aerial shots of the blocks in our study. I contacted Chris Blanton and asked if he would help us out. One morning I met Chris at the air strip at the nursery and off we went in his Piper Cub. Landed in Winter Garden (do not remember where) and I exited and Steve got on board. Chris then proceeded to fly all over Avalon Road, Scoffield Road, Marsh Road and anywhere Steve wanted to go. He (both) enjoyed the ride and acquired many pictures. We submitted the paper and it was published in Florida State Horticultural Proceedings.
We had other adventures as well. Steve always was an enthusiastic presenter at meetings, however his unique drawl never exhibited anything but calmness. Whenever Steve was on the program, turnout was high for he always had useful information to share.
Steve was a good friend of mine and of many researchers and growers, both in Florida and California. In fact he had friends all over world. As the premier citrus pathologist in the world, he traveled extensively and was involved in providing guidance to solve major disease issues on six (6) continents.
I will close with my favorite Steve Garnsey story. Clay McCoy and Steve would go fishing in Mosquito Lagoon several times a year. They really liked catching reds and enjoyed being together even more. I am sure the conservations were fascinating. It seems one morning bright and early Steve loaded up his boat, met Clay and they headed for Haulover Canal. After the hour plus trip Steve eased the boat down the ramp. Clay got in the boat and just before it was launched he asked Steve for the key to crank the motor. This blank look crept across the eminent pathologists face and then that wry smile when he pictured the key still on his dresser at home!! They pulled the boat up the ramp and slowly headed home. When the story got out, they never heard the end of it! When a group from Orlando headed to Lake Alfred, someone would ask “Steve, you got the keys?” Ok, one more story since I am talking about forgetting. One day Steve was helping me conduct a tour (have no idea for what group). Anyway we met the bus in Winter Garden and were going to make several stops on the way to Experiment Station in Lake Alfred. Steve rode the bus and gave his narration and I followed in my old Jeep Waggoner. Somewhere on Hwy 27 it was time for us to change places, I would talk and he would follow in my Jeep. At the county line I would get off the bus and we would return to Winter Garden. Nice simple plan, BUT I failed to tell Steve that the gas gauge did not work in the Jeep (I would write down the mileage and fill up every 200 or so miles). When the bus stopped at the county line there was no Steve. In a short time he came flying down the road. We both said our good bys to the travelers and as we were walking back to my Jeep he said, “Do you know far it is from Hi-Acres barn to a gas station in Clermont?” I responded that I would guess 10 or 15 miles. He then said, “ Busted my butt getting to the first one to put gas in your Jeep for the gauge was on empty, but only put in 3 gallons! What is the story?”. I apologized and told him the gauge did not work, he had at least 100 miles of gas. I would have had some choice words, but Steve in that slow quite drawl said, “Next time we will take my car!”
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