Remembering Cornell’s Ralph Freeman

Remembering Cornell's Ralph Freeman

Ralph Freeman, who worked for 36 years as a Cornell University floriculture extension specialist, died April 2 after a seven-year battle with cancer. He was 72.

From an early age, Freeman worked alongside his parents in their family-owned business, Flowers by Ralph. He studied horticulture at the University of Connecticut, then studied commercial floriculture and plant physiology, earning his Master’s degree from Cornell. He moved to Long Island, N.Y., with his wife, Carol, and worked as a floriculture extension specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Through years of dedication to the business and high standards of excellence, Freeman established himself as a leader and resource for flower growers, industry representatives and extension professionals.

Freeman earned the Long Island Farm Bureau’s Citizen of the Year award in 1999 because of his influence on Long Island’s agricultural industry. He served on several boards of directors, including the Center for Controlled Environment Agriculture (Rutgers University), Controlled Environment Agriculture (Cornell) and the John G. Seeley Conference (Cornell). Freeman has also served on the boards of directors for Bedding Plants Inc. and Professional Plant Growers Association, which are both international industry trade associations.

Freeman also led several educational tours and authored numerous articles related to the floriculture industry. He was a frequent lecturer at state, national and international horticultural programs and conventions. He counseled people starting new businesses, consulted for FarmNet and was a trusted advisor to the agricultural community. Always a proud Cornellian, Freeman often provided career guidance as well as references to high school students with aspirations of attending his alma mater.

“Ralph was a true extension agent,” says Dick Meister, who co-launched Greenhouse Grower magazine nearly 30 years ago. “He liked to get out and work with growers and was always looking for new practical information. He had an inquiring mind that led him to take leadership positions with Bedding Plants Inc. and Cornell’s Seeley Conference. But he disliked sitting in meetings for days at a time. He loved to be in the field checking things out and leading groups of growers on quests for new knowledge to the great floriculture events in Holland and Germany. It will be hard to find another with Ralph’s good sense of humor and his energy and enthusiasm for things that affect the working grower.”

Freeman is survived by his wife of 49 years, Carol; daughter, Cheryl, of New Jersey; son, Ralph Jr., of Delaware; daughter Heather Hughes of Delaware; his grandchildren, Linnea, Myles, Erika, Teddy, Lauren, AnnaKate and Joshua; and his siblings, Carl Freeman, Elaine Freeman Dunay, Dale Freeman Rahl and Bruce Freeman, all of Connecticut, and Jon Freeman of Vermont.

Tax-deductible donations in Freeman’s honor may be sent to Cornell University for the Student Intern Endowment, 3059 Sound Ave., Riverhead, NY 11901.

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11 comments on “Remembering Cornell’s Ralph Freeman

  1. Anonymous

    Ralph’s loss will be felt deeply through the greenhouse community. His love of his work and all those associated in our business lifestyle set a high standard for those of us in his footsteps. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him and listen to him speak at a Long Island Flower Growers meeting many years ago. His willingness to share knowledge of his experiences was wonderful. Our hearts go out to his family and our thoughts are with them during this time of loss.

  2. Anonymous

    As a Garden Center grower/retailer, my husband and I went to Holland back in the 80’s with Ralph leading the group. We have such wonderful memories of his knowledge, humor and passion for the industry. He was the key to our understanding and enjoyment of the entire trip. What an enthusiastic energy he exhibited in everything he shared with us. He will remain in our hearts always.

  3. Anonymous

    Hard if not impossible to replace. My wife and I consider Ralph the FATHER of the Greenhouse industry on Long Island.
    He was a futurist and practical.
    Lets not forget that Ralph was also a dedicated Sailor, and could be found on his sail boat in any kind of weather.
    Starboard Tack Ralph.

  4. Anonymous

    Additionally, the Freeman family suggests that tax-deductible donations in Ralph Freeman’s honor be sent to Chapin Living Waters, 364 N. Colorado Ave., Watertown NY 13601, phone: 315-788-0891. Chapin Living Waters is a not-for-profit organization that donates irrigation supplies to developing countries http://www.chapinlivingwaters.org/.

    Ralph will be greatly missed by all of us here on Long Island.

  5. Anonymous

    Ralh was a person if you had a problem with youre crops you had to call him at 5am after 10am he was checking his research at the lab.Ralph work with us to master the Cornell mix and contributed to ivy acres success.

  6. Anonymous

    Ralph’s loss will be felt deeply through the greenhouse community. His love of his work and all those associated in our business lifestyle set a high standard for those of us in his footsteps. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him and listen to him speak at a Long Island Flower Growers meeting many years ago. His willingness to share knowledge of his experiences was wonderful. Our hearts go out to his family and our thoughts are with them during this time of loss.

  7. Anonymous

    As a Garden Center grower/retailer, my husband and I went to Holland back in the 80’s with Ralph leading the group. We have such wonderful memories of his knowledge, humor and passion for the industry. He was the key to our understanding and enjoyment of the entire trip. What an enthusiastic energy he exhibited in everything he shared with us. He will remain in our hearts always.

  8. Anonymous

    Hard if not impossible to replace. My wife and I consider Ralph the FATHER of the Greenhouse industry on Long Island.
    He was a futurist and practical.
    Lets not forget that Ralph was also a dedicated Sailor, and could be found on his sail boat in any kind of weather.
    Starboard Tack Ralph.

  9. Anonymous

    Additionally, the Freeman family suggests that tax-deductible donations in Ralph Freeman’s honor be sent to Chapin Living Waters, 364 N. Colorado Ave., Watertown NY 13601, phone: 315-788-0891. Chapin Living Waters is a not-for-profit organization that donates irrigation supplies to developing countries http://www.chapinlivingwaters.org/.

    Ralph will be greatly missed by all of us here on Long Island.

  10. Anonymous

    Ralh was a person if you had a problem with youre crops you had to call him at 5am after 10am he was checking his research at the lab.Ralph work with us to master the Cornell mix and contributed to ivy acres success.

  11. Ralph Jr.

    It has been almost a year since dad was gone, and looking back, I wish I had asked him more questions! I love my vegetable garden and am using many of the growing materials, connectors, and drip irrigation that he use to use. I'd give it all away just to spend 5 minutes with him. I know he is in eternity now, and will see him again, but I miss him…