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Published: Sunday, 4/14/2013

Eugene “Budd” Gauger, 1930-2013: Ex-Blade editor saw artistry in gardening

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Budd Gauger. Budd Gauger.
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LAMBERTVILLE — Eugene “Budd” Gauger, a Blade editor and writer for more than 30 years known for encouraging colleagues in their craft and a gardener who brought artistry to his pastime, died Thursday in St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ypsilanti, Mich. He was 82.

He had dementia and was in ill health recently, his son, DeVeaux, said. Mr. Gauger left his longtime Lambertville home and garden about 18 months ago, first to assisted living at Oakleaf Village of Toledo and most recently at Hillside Terrace in Ann Arbor.

Mr. Gauger was a copy editor in the newsroom when he retired from The Blade in early 1995. He was hired in 1963 as the newspaper’s religion editor, but much of his career was behind the scenes as editor of the Behind The News section in The Blade on Sunday. Week after week, he selected articles that offered readers insights into world affairs from far-flung correspondents — and into the workings of city hall or the statehouse from Blade staff writers. He was in charge too of editing and laying out the section.

The rest of the newspaper didn’t escape his attention. A reporter might get a note from Mr. Gauger that called a turn of phrase “symphonic” or otherwise lavished an article with praise.

“He was one of those rare people who was truly pure of heart,” his son said, “and was always going to put someone else first. If more people were like him, the world would be a better place. I aspire to that.”

From the late 1980s into the 1990s, he was the newspaper’s garden writer. His weekly column, “Greenspace,” featured profiles of gardeners and their gardens and listed garden tours, and seed and plant exchanges. For the Toledo Museum of Art’s Age of Rubens exhibition, Mr. Gauger offered a guide to creating a Rubenesque garden.

He covered the horticulture extravaganza, AmeriFlora 92, in Columbus. He traveled to Rio de Janeiro and wrote about the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, also in 1992.

“He was a wordsmith,” said Louise Bankey, a longtime friend.

A gardening primer began with typical modesty.

“For the novice, here are a few general pointers [ignore them and you will do just fine],” Mr. Gauger wrote.

As he concluded the comprehensive guide, he wrote, “The most important thing is to relish the touch of soil and seed and to delight in scents and sights.

“Have pen and paper ready to compose your first poem, and listen with a whole new bliss to Cho-Cho-san and Suzuki singing ‘Tutti i fior’ [duet of the flowers] in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly," Mr. Gauger wrote.

Mr. Gauger lived in a small home on a large parcel made larger when he bought the vacant house next door and knocked it down.

He created a garden that, in various years, included a hardy variety of bamboo or alfalfa from his native Nebraska or the red fluffly flower of the Andean quinoa. On select Sundays, he opened his garden and brought together friends from First Unitarian Church of Toledo, where he was a member, and from work and from other interests.

“It was completely different. It wasn’t an English garden,” Mrs. Bankey said. “It was a Budd garden.”

Plants, mundane and exotic, were arranged around found objects. Chickens with tall plumage strutted about, if spared by neighborhood varmints.

“He had every unusual thing you can think of, and he had ponds for frogs and fish, vistas of grasses or a mass of flowers”" Mrs. Bankey said. “It was wonderful, to say the least.”

He was in charge of decorating his church for Christmas; he gave workshops in flower arranging, and for many years he brought an arrangement to church each Sunday.

“He could take the most unlikely plants and sticks and create this amazingly, hauntingly beautiful arrangement out of them,” said Robert Rudolph, chaplain of First Unitarian.

He also wrote and self-published books and pamphlets with such titles as “Floral Concerts and Choral Arrangements.” He was a longtime member of the church choir.

He was born Sept. 6, 1930, in Omaha and was adopted by Louise and Samuel Gauger. He grew up on a farm near Wauneta, Neb., and was a graduate of Wauneta High School. He received a bachelor’s degree from Fort Wayne, Ind., Bible College, where he was a forward on the basketball team. He took classes for several years afterward at the University of Nebraska while he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal. He was an ardent fan of Nebraska Cornhuskers football.

He was a pacifist and was a conscientious objector to military service.

His alternative service was as a writer and editor with the Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pa.

He was formerly married to Elle Gauger.

Surviving are his sons, DeVeaux and Derek Gauger, and two grandchildren.

Memorial services next month in Toledo are pending.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182



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