Written by: Alexandra Jennings, McMaster biology graduate student

It is with great sadness that I share with you the passing of our Greenhouse manager, Mr. Art Yeas. He died unexpectedly at home this past weekend.

For the past 38 years, Art managed the on-campus greenhouse at McMaster University, taking care of the day-to-day running of the building as well as the care of over 217 different species of plants. He was responsible for the acquisition of countless rare and exotic plant species, both for his personal enjoyment, but more importantly, to enhance the awareness and understanding of plants and our natural environment for our students, staff and the community at large.

This past year was one of triumph for Art: by donating our bamboo shoots he helped feed the Giant Pandas at the Toronto Zoo; he was instrumental in the acquisition of three rare Titan Arum corms, two of which bloomed earlier this year; and this past July, he received the President’s Award for Outstanding Service in 2014. Art also helped increase the profile of our greenhouse by being the voice of the greenhouse twitter account, being on hand for drop-in tours, and by answering plant-related queries either in person or those submitted to our greenhouse website. He was constantly thinking of interesting ways we could bring the public into the greenhouse to experience firsthand, the biodiversity of our plant collection.

Over the past four years, I had the pleasure of interacting with Art first as a scared student, then as both a graduate researcher and a TA for the second year biology plant course. Art was always available to ask random questions about my home garden, identify pests on my house plants, and as an open ear to complaints about how poorly I thought my research plants looked. By talking to Art I was kept apprised of all the goings-on in the department, much to my enjoyment, and the gossip and our conversations will be greatly missed.

I didn’t get the chance to thank you for all the help you provided me: helping me set up experiments; choose the right fertilizers and soil mixes; water my plants on weekends when I didn’t want to make the drive to Hamilton; and more importantly, by being a wonderful friend. There is an emptiness to the greenhouse now, a void that cannot be filled.