'Orchid Man' Webster Dies
Orchid aficionado John "Jack" Webster told The Pilot in a 2001 interview that anyone could grow orchids if they just followed the instructions.
"Orchids don't die," he said. "People kill them."
The well-known Southern Pines resident died Friday at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. He was 81.
John William Olley Webster was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He spent most of his youth in Aberdeen, Scotland.
"Dad was a bank auditor," he said in the 2001 interview, "and each auditor had to spend a year in Argentina every so often and it so happened that I was born during one of his years there."
He returned to Argentina upon his father's posting to a bank position in Buenos Aires. After attending the Universidad de Buenos Aires and serving two years in the Argentine army, Webster briefly worked for the Ford Motor Co. before joining J. Walter Thompson (JWT), the international advertising agency.
At age 23 he was appointed JWT's manager to Santiago, Chile. It was there he met and married his wife, Jean.
Webster spent the next 30 years in South America, mainly in Argentina, Chile and Peru, He opened and/or managed offices in Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, closing his career as a board member and executive vice president of JWT Worldwide, with responsibility for the company's offices in the southern cone of South America.
The Websters moved to Southern Pines in 1981 after his retirement.
Webster was an accomplished carpenter, making much of the furniture seen in the couple's home today. But his real passion was the growing and care of his large orchid collection.
He was a board member and longtime president of the Triangle and Sandhills Orchid Societies, as well as being an active member of the Triad and Cape Fear Orchid Societies. He organized innumerable orchid shows and traveled extensively representing his societies at orchid events throughout the U.S. and around the world.
"Two things stand out in my mind about Jack," said Paul Virtue, president of the Triangle Orchid Society (TOS). "First was his absolute dedication to passing on his love for orchids. The other was his thrift, a reflection of his Scottish background, when it came to running the affairs of the five orchid societies of which he was a board member over the years."
For more on the story, see Wednesday's print edition of The Pilot.
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