A Letter to the Editor from Bill Castle: Everybody Needs Somebody

Josh McGill Citrus

Bill CastleA Letter to the Editor, Citrus Industry magazine

By Bill Castle, University of Florida professor emeritus

Everybody needs somebody to stand by you. For me, the road to the Citrus Hall of Fame was paved with many meaningful personal relationships, people who stood by me and made a difference. During the Hall of Fame ceremony, I said only a few words while at the microphone by myself, but I was by no means alone. Standing alongside me were many who contributed to my development as a member of the University of Florida faculty and as a person. I would like to gratefully acknowledge every individual with a special thank you, but that, regrettably, is not possible.

Instead, let me simply extend appreciation to my colleague Ron Muraro for his role in initiating my nomination, to Pete Spyke for organizing the nomination and writing the nomination letter, to friends and long-time colleagues Fred Gmitter and Jude Grosser for writing supporting letters, to Bill Barber, Peter Chaires and Orie Lee for also writing supporting letters and to industry friends Buster and Jean Pratt and Harold and Mary McTeer and their families for being there to help guide me at the beginning of my career when I knew so little about citrus. I’d also like to acknowledge my sister, Ann Pontown, and her family.

Jim Baldwin spent more than 27 years of his career devoted to managing our field program. Jim was indispensable in that capacity. Through the years, he was helped by Gary Test, Jim Nunnallee and Ajia Cunningham. I remain impressed with the spirit our team took to the field. We spent countless hours and days in the field setting up for and collecting the horticultural and pathology data that are the foundation of the Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide.

Four relationships that began while I was a graduate student at the University of Florida are unusually important. Dr. Al Krezdorn at that time was the chairman of the old Fruit Crops Department. He took a chance and accepted me into the department where he mentored my graduate career as my supervisor and extended that influence into my career at the Citrus Research and Education Center. He died an untimely death, but his wisdom lives on. Fortunately, his widow, Rosemary, remains a supporting and caring friend. Graduate school also led to personal and professional friendships with Donovan Brown, Pete Spyke and Michael Ziegler. It brings me considerable satisfaction to reflect on the fact they have given all that friends do for more than 40 years.

A team is a marvelous thing. I was fortunate to have been part of three of them. Colleagues Adair Wheaton, Jodie Whitney, Dave Tucker and I had a grand time together. As the junior member of the team, it was readily apparent that they were great teachers as we studied grove design. Fred Gmitter, Jude Grosser and I are still on an incredible journey. The third team consisted of Brian Boman, Mace Bauer and Tom Obreza. We took a close look at the interaction of soil and site factors with rootstocks. The camaraderie in working with an agricultural engineer and two soil scientists was memorable.

My career would not have happened without the support of the industry. Many nursery-cooperators propagated thousands of trees for our research. Our requirements were always to produce just a few trees, but of many scion rootstock combinations, requirements that would have certainly driven less committed and stalwart people crazy. Likewise, our research was not possible without the multitude of generous growers who over the years gave their land, caretaking and harvesting resources, and time in the conduct of field trials and data collection on private property. I speak for all of us in saying that we owe a huge debt in the execution of our work to our nursery- and grower-cooperators.

In closing, when I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure about my next step in life so I enlisted in the Army. That took me to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where one day in a nearby public area I made the biggest decision of my life. The area is dominated by a land feature known as Mount Scott. I was there with a woman and a small black box. I opened the box and asked that woman to marry me. It was quiet for a long time … I mean a long time. I thought I might need to come back the next day and start over because clearly I missed something. Shortly thereafter, that woman looked up and said: “Well, the diamond is kind of small, but I think your income potential is good, so yes, I’ll marry you.” It is now nearly 49 years ago since my wife uttered those words. I have never experienced anything like the unconditional love of Eileen. Everybody needs somebody to stand by you.

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