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Oldham County Historical Society Gala

The late Theodore Klein
honored posthumously

More than 200 attend fund raiser gala

By Don Ward
Editor

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (November 2003) – Oldham Countians celebrated their history and those who work to preserve it Oct. 17 during the second annual fundraising gala for the Oldham County Historical Society at The Olmstead in Louisville.

Bob Hill, Paul Cappiello

Photo by Don Ward

From left, Bob Hill & Paul Cappellio.

A group of 230 people attended the $100-a-plate dinner, where awards presented to family members of the late Theodore Klein for his horticulture work at Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood, Ky. Klein, who was married to Martha Lee Sageser, died in 1998.
Marian Klein Koehler of Crestwood accepted the society’s Champion of Oldham County History Award on behalf of the family. Historical Society board president Kim Snell presented her with a sketch of the Oldham County History Center, drawn by artist Carol Jones. Other family members present included Jules and Karl Klein of Crestwood, and daughter Joyce, now of Atlanta.
A self-taught horticulturalist, Klein was internationally known for his breakthrough work of propagating trees, shrubs and plants on his 200-acre farm. He was also accomplished in wood carving, masonry and ironworking. One of the founding members of the historical society, Klein’s interest in history joined his legendary horticulture skills when he and friend Stanley LeMaster placed hundreds of historic trees across the country and in other countries.
An accomplished photographer, he amassed a collection of thousands of slides of gardens and plant specimens from around the world.
The Klein family purchased the original 33-acre farm in 1940 and later expanded it to 200-plus acres, naming it Yew Dell. Today, it is being preserved as a public garden by the nonprofit Yew Dell Gardens Inc., made up of dedicated friends and volunteers. Although tours can be arranged, the gardens are expected to officially open to the public next spring.

Marian Klein Koehler

Photo by Don Ward

Marian Klein Koehler accepts award.

Paul Cappiello, former horticulture director of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Ky., now serves as director of Yew Dell Gardens. He, along with Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Bob Hill and a noted gardener himself, presented a slide show of Yew Dell as part of the program. Both were friends of the late Klein and consider him a mentor.
Hill joked, “If God wanted to plant a tree, he’d call Theodore first and ask for directions. He was such an amazing presence.”
Cappiello said Klein revolutionized the industry with his experimentations. “He was a plant geek of the first order. He was always looking for that one plant that had potential to make the world a more beautiful place.”
Klein was noted for his many varieties of holly plants, which he introduced around the country. Hollies are now in the top 10 of shrubs grown commercially in the eastern United States, Cappiello said. Jules Klein donated holly plants to the board to be passed out to those in attendance.

Theodore Klein

Photo by Mike Hayman

The late Theodore Klein.

Perhaps just as impressive was the former pool house that Klein converted into a residence. The Cotswold style house looks like a castle and is built from creek stone with a slate roof.
Mary Broecker was recognized for her community volunteerism and honorary chair of the gala.
The Champion of Oldham County History Award was conceived by the society’s board to honor a person or group who have demonstrated a sincere interest in the county’s history and a desire and effort to preserve that history for future generations.
Snell announced that the historical society plans to return to The Olmstead again next year. Snell announced that the historical society plans to return to The Olmstead again next year. He also announced a new Korean War exhibit that is being planned at the museum and requested that anyone with memorabilia to contact director Anita Fritz about donating items. She can be reached at (502) 222-0826.

• For more information about Yew Dell Gardens Inc., call president Mary Rounsavall at (502) 241-4788. Or visit the website: www.yewdellgardens.org.

 

 

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