Inquiring Photographer: Orchid Cubit Member Fred

By Kathy Puckett (boojum) on October 21, 2010

I have been thinking about the people I talk to every day online and realized I probably don't know them as well as I would like. Sooo, I have created this member interview feature! I hope you enjoy learning about our members as much as I do!

Here are the questions that I ask each member:

1. Please tell us about yourself. (ex.: your past, your professional status, now, where you grew up, where you live now and the zone, etc.)
2. Do you garden besides growing orchids? Tell us about it.
3. What is your favorite music, films, books, quotations, etc.
4. What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
5. Tell us about your interest in orchids and how it progressed.
6. What is most important to you? Who are your heroes?
7. What are your dreams and aspirations?
8. What makes you laugh?

Fred, thank you so much for agreeing to become An Orchid Obsession interviewee!!!

Fred: I was born in West Prussia back in 1937. The area was divided up to be given to Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia by the allies after WWII. We, along with 16 million other Germans, were forced to leave our ancestral homes in one of the greatest ethnic cleansing campaigns in modern history. The US Congress, in a fit of conscience, provided for many of us DPs (displaced persons) to emigrate to the US on military transport ships. All you needed to do was prove birth on the other side of the Oder-Neiße rivers and you were in.

St. Nikolai, the church I was baptized in before and after the war. Note the restaurant or inn named Goldener Löwe (golden lion) next to the church. My home town was founded by German knights in heathen Prussia back in 1237 but was turned over to Poland after WWII. 

Before & After

The remnants of the old city and the baptismal font I was baptized in.

My family came here penniless in March of 1952. Within 6 months I was fairly fluent in English and went to high school where I graduated with honors in 1956. Since I was not sure of what to do next, I joined the US Army for 3 years, had myself transferred to Germany and re-met a previous neighbor and schoolmate who I then brought to the US to marry.

We're in the army now.

Young man in love from 1957 and still married to the same person.

Before the army I had worked a bit as a tool & die designer apprentice to which occupation I returned but soon our Angela was on the way and a higher income was required. I became an engineering clerk for the Philadelphia Gas Works, where I worked for 9 years, mostly in early computer programming. Next came a stint with NCR (National Cash Register Company) and then, in 1971, I founded my own computer company as a facilities management house and computer service bureau. During the 1990s, I started to retire as I was able to delegate a new management team and get my kids involved. So much in a nutshell as to my work life. 

I worked my way through night school at La Salle University to graduate number one in my class. I was intent to go to graduate school to eventually become a college professor teaching German and/or History. The latter avocation has always been an important part of my life, but I was also attracted to computers and the financial rewards they might bring to my family. All through the struggles to survive as an under-capitalized company, I was able to relax out in the garden wherever we lived. Gardening kept me sane, and nature was always a sane place to take solace when the going became tough.

I also was keen on researching my own family history and became one of the founders of German genealogy on the internet. I still manage various discussion lists in that world, which still takes up a lot of my time, day in day out. Another of my many hobbies (numismatics, philately, photography, books, etc) was the desire to travel and explore new places. During the 90s, we purchased our first motor home, and eventually graduated to a full-fledged 45 foot luxury coach. In 1998, we purchased a lot in an upscale Motor Coach Resort in Naples, FL. I immediately started landscaping in this lush environment during our 6 months winter residence. A koi pond with waterfall and 60 various palms were planted with flowers all around. The scene was so out of the ordinary for a 'camping' place, that it was even featured in the NY Times as the new style of luxury camping. Today, lots in Pelican Lake Motor Coach Resort range up to half a million dollars – basically for a piece of landscaped concrete. 

Once I was finished landscaping, there was nothing left for me to do, and I started pestering my wife for a real house on a decent sized property. I needed a new challenge, and purchased 2.5 acres with a small house and lots of jungle- type Everglade land about 20 miles from the gulf. Once I was done with the place, I purchased 5 acres next to me to add to my workload. During the summer, we still took off to travel, but now the plants require our presence and we've stayed here the summer of 2009 and 2010. It's hot and I find that I can't do much anyway in the humidity, but all the things I've added here require an almost constant presence. There are a large number of koi to take care of, and it seems that the electrical system is always in need of monitoring during the summer storms. 

Now to orchids – they are relatively new to my hobby list, but have become more important as time goes on. I had some orchids in the trees at our camping ground, but some would mysteriously disappear after returning from some trip or other, and so the extent of my hobby was to pick up some nice flowers to replace those that were gone. Didn't know a cattleya from a vanda. When some orchidists who lived in the park full time decided to sell their lot and move to a small condo in Key West, they offered me their entire collection of about 100 orchids for $1000. I bit. It's been a steep learning curve ever since.


I recently purchased a greenhouse of sorts to store and grow orchids during the occasional cold days in the winter season. I got tired of moving 300 orchids back and forth from one place to another whenever the weatherman forecasted a cold night. I also have several tropical palms in large pots behind my pool wall which require protection during a cold night. Covering them does not do the trick as I lost several.


During the summer, I'll move my orchids back to my pool lanai where I still have to provide a rain cover over them. We get daily rain here during the summer months and as any grower knows, our orchids want a chance to dry out a bit before getting another shower. I've lost many orchids due to black rot and will probably switch to more lava and less bark to help to prevent this.

Another of my loves in life is music, especially classical music and German melodies from my youth. I play the latter when we travel in our coach and never seem to get tired as all that oompa-pa keeps my spirits at an elevated level. On the other hand, I like many pieces that I would not mind dying to. Beethoven's 9th is one of them. Another is Léo Delibes' "Flower Duet." There are really too many favorites to list here, but in general, my taste is for the female operatic voice like Giacomo Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro." Popular pieces like "Malaguena" have fascinated my musical tastebuds and I remember well the German language version, sung by Caterina Valente, with Werner Müller's Orchestra, which was also popular in the United States in the 1950s. 

I power-walk two miles most mornings and tend to have my iPod filled with German Folkmusic with me. It keeps me walking briskly. I simply do not care for modern music as I can't understand the words and in general feel it's people screaming for entertainment value. Not my style. 

My favorite quotation goes back to my study of history where I specialized in modern European history and still remember Professor Ugo Donini instill us with the words of the great German historian Leopold von Ranke to always write history: "Wie es eigentlich gewesen ist". ('as it really was' and not according to a nationalist viewpoint). Sadly most history is written for a national audience and aims to be sold. Popular acceptance is primary and truth is secondary. 

Kathy: Too true, Fred.  It's a good thing the orchids simply give us beauty and that truth IS primary!! Thanks for letting us get to know you better, Fred.  Here's a great photo of Fred from our very own Kat! 

About Kathy Puckett
Kathy is the admin for An Orchid Obsession. She is a speech-language pathologist, a former professional artist, a photographer, and an avid orchid grower. And most of all she likes to learn about the folks she chats with every day on her cubit.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great Article rocklady Feb 1, 2011 9:10 AM 3
Hello Superman! Katg Oct 25, 2010 11:42 AM 1
Wonderful Dutchlady1 Oct 24, 2010 8:16 AM 5
Nice Meeting You nap Oct 22, 2010 6:09 AM 1
thank you Ursula Oct 21, 2010 6:11 PM 0

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