Passing of a great orchid man in Central Florida
Gerald S. Spence "Bud"
SPENCE, Gerald S. "Bud" Gerald S. "Bud" Spence died unexpectedly on Dec. 21, 2009. Bud was born to Walter S. and Edith Elizabeth Spence on Nov. 23, 1927 in Metcalf, GA. He was raised in the Niceville area of Okaloosa County, FL as a member of one of its pioneering families. Bud spent much of his early life outdoors, and developed an insatiable curiosity about the things he encountered in local woods and shores. And as sometimes happens, he grew to pass on the wonder of his finds, becoming a lifelong educator and layman researcher. As a young man he walked the entire shore of Choctawhatchee Bay searching for archaeo-logical sites. Working in Okaloosa and Walton Counties during the 1940s and 50s he located and unearthed a wide variety of Native American artifacts, including some of the finest ceramic vessels ever found in Florida. These may be seen at the Temple Mound Museum in Ft. Walton Beach, where his collection comprises a good portion of the exhibits. Bud graduated from Niceville High School in 1947, and matriculated at Florida State University as an education student. In 1952, Bud joined the U.S. Air Force as an education specialist having nearly finished his degree. He was stationed at both McDill and Ramey Air Force Bases, and served as both a Test Administrator, and as an Education Service Advisor. While on active duty, Bud returned briefly to Florida State in 1956 to finish his degree. Bud ultimately attained the rank of Tech Sergeant and was honorably discharged in 1960 to return to Okaloosa County. He then worked happily as an elementary educator for several years in Okaloosa's school system. By about 1965 Bud was inspired to seriously pursue orchid propagation. The N/W Florida winters are too cold for orchids, so Bud moved to St. Petersburg and became a middle-school science teacher for Pinellas County, after briefly living in Key West. Bud taught middle school science until he retired, after which he was able to concentrate fully on his burgeoning business, Florida Native Orchids. In the early 1960s, Bud had trekked the bush and mountains of Central America, discovering new orchid species. He created scores of new hybrids from these unique strains, many of which are named for friends and family. Over the years Bud became the largest independent orchid grower in the state and was quite influential in the orchid-loving community. He enjoyed giving lectures on his work to many garden clubs and floral societies through the decades, and was featured in the Bay Area press. A Celebration of Bud's Life will be held on Jan, 9, from 3-5 pm, at the Stone Soup Cafe, 4122 16th St. N, St. Petersburg (727-526-2975). The restaurant's regular food and beverage menu will be available, and the event is to be casual, as Bud would have liked. Bud is survived by his brother, Walter F. Spence; two nephews, Jerry and Walt Spence; grandnephews Charles Spence and Loren Boyer, and many cousins in the Niceville, FL area. Bud also left one grand-niece, Victoria Spence, of Tampa. He also leaves behind many dear friends in the St. Petersburg area, including Doug Chenneville, who continues to operate Florida Native Orchids. Throughout his life, Bud never lost the desire to share his sense of awe. The lives of Bud's students, family, and friends were immeasurably enriched by his enthusiasm for discovery and his gentle wisdom.
Published in St. Petersburg Times on January 8, 2010