Walter Lehnert joined the Friends board at the January 5, 1960 Annual Meeting. At the 1962 board meeting following the annual meeting he was elected President, serving for three years through 1964. After leaving the board as an active director in May 1969 he was elected an honorary director until he was reelected to the board in 1975 and served through 1980.
Mr. Lehnert is first mentioned in the Friends records in 1955 when he provided Martha Crone an Inkberry to plant (Ilex glabra). His entire backyard at 5209 Minnehaha Blvd., Edina, was filled with wild flowering forbs and shrubs that he had grown from seed. He grew up in Scott County but spent a few working years in New York of which he says "It gave me a sense of appreciation of things I'd taken for granted like the woods and plants." (1)
When he returned to Minnesota he joined the Minnesota Botanical Society and the Nature Conservancy, of which at one time he was chairman of the Minnesota Chapter. He said that his working philosophy is that "There's relatively little left that's true natural land. I'm interested in seeing enough representative areas conserved so that future generations can see what these areas were like." The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden were then a natural choice for him to join.
Only twice did he write a note for the Fringed Gentian™. The first in October 1962 (Vol. 10 No. 4) covered the uniqueness of fall leaf color. In the second in October 1963 (Vol. 11 No. 4) he related his philosophy stated above, to the Wild Flower Garden.
A century ago when my grandparents, along with many others, settled in this part of our country there was an abundance of all of the native "Wildflower," ferns, etc. This hundred years of advancing civilization has eliminated most of the interesting and desirable plants. Only in sanctuaries such as Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and in bits of untillable land here and there, have they been able to survive.
The Scarcity of some of the most abundant species is a mute indication of the need to conserve that bit which still remains. As urban development envelopes these bits of waste land, the last stands of some of the local flora will be destroyed. If you know of such a location, an attempt should be made to salvage desirable plants. Those hard to propagate -such as orchids, perennial gentian, and some ferns should be salvaged if at all possible. There is no need to move easily propagated plants such as most Violets, Columbine, Butterfly-weed, etc.
Lehnert's commercial life takes us back to 1930 when he had a workshop building transformers and a former university mate, R. E. Allison had a workshop building amplifiers. They joined together forming Audio Development Company which, during its World War II production peak reached 250 employees. (2)
After World War II with the development of the electronics industry in Minnesota, Magnetic Controls, Inc. was founded in 1953. At the time Lehnert was President of the Friends, he was chairman of the board of Magnetic Controls. He retired from that position in 1970.
One of his hobbies was to collect postage stamps with native plants as the image. He gave talks with color slides about them and brought examples to look at. (3) He passed away on June 14, 1982.
(1) Minneapolis Tribune March 10, 1963.
(2) Minneapolis Tribune November 23, 1945.
(3) Minneapolis Tribune April 16, 1967.
The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 10 No. 4
The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 11 No. 4
Other references: Minutes of The Board of Directors and other documents of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text by Gary Bebeau.