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Theodore M. Barkley

Ted Barkley passed away on Saturday morning the twenty-fourth of July 2004 in Fort Worth, Texas. What the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) lost with the passing of this man is nearly impossible to describe. Ted (he never used his real first name) was a Research Associate at BRIT. He retired from Kansas State University in 1998 after 37 years of service to that University and came south to Fort Worth specifically to continue his work with the Flora North America (FNA) Project. He often said that he chose BRIT over potential other destinations because he recognized that he would be treated like a real member of the group, rather than some interloper who would merely be tolerated. I had the privilege of knowing Ted as both a colleague and friend for many years.

Ted was an expert in that large, complicated, and very economically important group of plants called the Compositae (the sunflower family). His presence at BRIT was the reason the Editorial Center for this plant family was at BRIT. (Ted obtained over $600,000 worth of funding from the FNA Foundation and the National Science Foundation.) He was enormously respected by his colleagues, and he was eagerly sought after as a speaker on this group of plants, on grasslands, and on the science of nomenclature and taxonomy. He was a spellbinding speaker who was able to grab the interest and imagination of his audience from beginning to end. He was a true intellectual in the best and highest meaning of that word.

Ted had been battling cancer since about February and had been steadily going downhill. However, his humor and good spirits were with him right up to the very end. Mary, his widow, is planning a memorial service at BRIT on the Saturday following Thanksgiving to allow as many of his friends and colleagues to attend as possible.

The successful completion of the Compositae volumes of the FNA project will be his greatest legacy, aside from the generations of students he mentored and taught, not only about botany, but about life. He created such a powerful infrastructure at BRIT for the FNA that the completion of these volumes is assured. He was for me, personally, a good friend, and a source of significant moral support (someone whose advice I gave careful attention). There are five people presently at BRIT who would not be here were it not for him. Indeed, Ted had mentored many, many students during his time in Kansas, and this mentoring continued while he was at BRIT. He was a fair-minded and insightful individual, and behaved exactly as if he were a paid staff member, coming to all meetings, contributing to all programs, particularly the education program, and he was always available for consultation and advice.

On his last day at BRIT, just two and a half days before he died, Ted spent several hours annotating specimens! He often told me and others that he was going out happy in the knowledge that this project, to which he had devoted so many years of his life, would be finished. The staff here will honor his memory by making sure it remains on schedule. Most of us will never get over the lack of his presence, and I am personally much diminished by his absence.

Mary Barkley has designated BRIT as one of the places memorials in his memory can be directed.

— S. H. Sohmer Botanical Research Institute of Texas August 26, 2004