Nadine Burnim Fly

Nadine Fly (1917 - 2015)
Nadine Fly (1917 – 2015)

The best teacher I ever had, my mother, passed away this week. Nadine grew up in the rural east Texas piney woods, a few miles outside the town of Nacogdoches. She attended the two room Macedonia Rosenwald School, on what is known as the “Low Douglass Road”, for grades one through nine. Nadine was naturally left handed, but the teacher at the Rosenwald School was right handed, and forced Nadine to learn to write right handed. She worked as a maid and cook for forty seven years.

When I graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Nadine and her sister, Margaret, traveled to Boston/Cambridge for the ceremonies. Then chairman of the Landscape Architecture Department, Charles W. Harris, made time to greet parents privately. When our turn came we went into his office. Chairman Harris casually asked Nadine how she liked the campus in early June. Without hesitation, she began to give her observations about the New England plants, in detail. She was particularly descriptive in explaining the differences between the shape, size and color of the flowers of the eastern dogwood and the southern dogwood she grew up with in Nacogdoches County, Texas. She used the joints of her fingers to describe the width of flower and length of petals. The Chairman grew more attentive as her description progressed. When she finished, he smiled broadly and said “… well Everett, I see where your interest in landscape architecture came from!” I received the degree, BUT Nadine gave the plant taxonomy short class at one of the world’s best universities.