Frances N. Batcheller died on November 27, 2009 at the age of 96.
Mrs. Batcheller was a self-taught botanist and gesneriad enthusiast. A true "renaissance woman", she grew, studied, hybridized, and wrote about gesneriads for over 40 years. She founded the Flower Show Judging program of the Gesneriad Society. She even dabbled in botanical illustration.
When I was a young boy discovering gesneriads in the 1960's, Mrs. Batcheller was truly the Goddess of Gesneriads. Or maybe the Oracle; she seemed to know everything. She was the "Technical Editor" of several editions of "How to Know and Grow Gesneriads" and was Guest Editor for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Gesneriad Handbook. I wore out several copies of each book, studying them more intensely than my high school homework.
I met Frances in person for the first time at my first AGGS Convention, in 1965. To me she was a rock star and so I was more than a little intimidated. To my delight and amazement she treated me not as a pesky kid, but as a peer, patiently discussing various aspects of gesneriad botany and culture with me. Afterwards I started writing her letters full of questions about gesneriads. She always replied the same day, sometimes even including a package of plant starts. She was a class act, a unique and wonderful individual.