If you have any fond memories of Charlie that you’d like to share, please do so in the reader comment section below. There are already several touching remarks.
Beloved longtime American Fruit Grower Columnist Charlie O’Dell, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture at Virginia Tech and the owner of Crow’s Nest Berry Farm in Blacksburg, VA, passed away recently. According to an obituary in The Roanoke (VA) Times, O’Dell died at his Blacksburg home unexpectedly and peacefully on Sept. 4. He was 82.
O’Dell earned his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Berea College in Kentucky in 1957, going on to earn his Master’s Degree in Horticulture from the University of Maryland in 1960. He was employed by the USDA before coming to Virginia Tech in 1968. Charlie retired as Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, Extension and Research, from Virginia Tech in 2001.
O’Dell was a favorite of American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazine readers, as he was our expert on berries for 34 years. While he stepped aside as our full-time berry columnist in 2016, he still submitted columns from time to time. In his last column, he writes on the importance of precisely locating drip irrigation emitters.
O’Dell was approached in 1982 by then-berry columnist George McConnell to take his place as the regular berry contributor. O’Dell recalled the scene when he was presented with the National Raspberry & Blackberry Association’s 2016 Distinguishing Service Award following his presentation at the conference’s luncheon entitled “A Lifetime In Berries” on March 3 in Williamsburg, VA.
“He kindly visited me at my campus office in 1982 and asked if I would be interested in writing the berries articles for this respected national fruit industry magazine. I said ‘yes,’ and was very honored, traveled to Willoughby, OH to meet (Meister Media Worldwide Chairman Emeritus and Editor-At-Large) Richard Meister and staff and am so grateful to be able to continue doing these berries articles for the past 34 years,” O’Dell said. “I am still learning and sharing with berry growers what I learn. American Fruit Grower has provided me a voice for berries far beyond campus, way beyond Virginia, a dream come true!”
Following O’Dell’s speech, he received a standing ovation, and then the surprise presentation.
“It was a total surprise to me,” he said. “It is a beautiful plaque too that will hang in a prominent place at home!”
O’Dell loved Crow’s Nest Farm, which he and his wife of 61 years, Wilmoth Curtis Rumbaugh O’Dell, founded in 1972. The name of the farm, (CROW), is a combination of their initials. O’Dell often referred to himself as “The Ole Crow.”
American Fruit Grower Senior Editor Christina Herrick, who coordinates the magazine’s columnists and worked with Charlie for many years, says it was always a delight to talk to and to hear from O’Dell.
“Charlie would always write me a note with his column saying he wanted to retire from writing, but around the due date for his next contribution he’d send me something, remarking at how he still had plenty of advice to share,” Herrick said. “He kept this up even through this year! His enthusiasm for the berry industry and horticulture was infectious and it certainly helped fuel us to focus more on the growth of the industry.”
In addition to his wife, O’Dell is survived by his two daughters and son-in-law, Mary Jane and Amos Cordell, and Leah O’Dell Wilmoth; his five grandchildren, Jesicca Wilmoth Burgess (Mathew Burgess), Curtis Jack Lee, Meredith Jane Lee, Amanda Lee Wilmoth, and Abbagail Reide Wilmoth; and great-granddaughter, Lydia Grace Burgess.
Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. The family will receive friends at the reception immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Berea College, Department of College Relations, C.P.O. 2216, Berea Kentucky 40404.