Below are excerpts from a more
extensive tribute to Ted Uber sent to us by Carolyn Hayes Uber.
Click here to see the complete article
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Van Ness Water Gardens, California USA
Click images to enlarge
Teddy Uber was born in Fort Morgan, Colorado to Charles (known
as C.C. or Charley) Uber and the former Laura Myrtle Lynn on
January 17, 1908. The family was from Mercer County, Pennsylvania
. . . settled in Grove City, Pennsylvania.
He attended Grove City schools and earned his Bachelor of
Science degree in commerce from Grove City College in 1931. As
a young man, Ted worked for his father as carpenter, building
homes in Grove City, and he also worked for T. F. Armour, the
father of Arthur Armour, harvesting ice from Barmore Lake. Graduating
from college at the height of the Depression, Ted felt fortunate
to find employment as a machinist at Cooper Bessemer in Grove
In 1933/1934, he became one of the early employees at renowned
metal artisan Arthur Armour's shop, where he was primarily responsible
for flattening the aluminum after to relieve the internal tensions
in the repousse metal, and then forming the repoussed pieces
in to ashtrays, bowls, and trays. Thus began his lifelong passion
for creating objects of art.
In 1936, at the age of 28, Ted married the beautiful girl
next door Louella Gertrude Neely* at Harbison Chapel at Grove
City College. The daughter of Charles and Blanche (Bowser) Neely,
Louella was a senior at Slippery Rock College and Ted had been
interested in her for quite some time. On February 20, 2007 they
celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary quite an uncommon accomplishment.
He also went on to earn his master's degree in industrial
arts in 1942. Ted's studies and his work with the art metal classes
led to a commission from McGraw Hill for the preparation of a
book on the creation of art metal objects.
It was during this busy time period that Ted and Louella's
eldest son, Edward Donald* (April 12, 1938), and then daughter,
JoAnn Louella* (May 12, 1939) were born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.
Ted's persistent health problems caused by allergies motivated
a departure from Pennsylvania in 1944. The Uber family settled
in Burbank, California. Ted obtained a position teaching industrial
arts classes at John Muir High School in Burbank.
He resumed his work with aluminum. His samples were enthusiastically
received by a buyer at Bullock's, at which point California Hand
Forged was born and teaching was discontinued. California Hand
Forged was exclusively a family business. The children assisted
in getting the metal ready, Louella buffed and polished the pieces,
and Ted designed and crafted all of the items. California Hand
Forged maintained a gift shop in Valley Market Town in Van Nuys,
and Associated Merchandising Company, a major buyer and distributor
of home and gift wares, carried the California Hand Forged line.
Soon Ted's creations were to be found in major gift and department
stores, including Bullocks in Los Angeles, Gump's in San Francisco,
Neiman Marcus in Texas, Marshall Fields in Chicago, and Hudson's
The thriving business was dealt a heavy blow as a result of
the Korean War. Aluminum was in high demand in Southern California
for military aircraft production, and it became extremely difficult
and expensive for smaller buyers to obtain raw material. Ted
returned to industry as a machinist for Lockheed in order to
support his family, while the family continued to produce as
much of the California Hand Forged product as was possible given
the limited supplies of aluminum that could be obtained.
William Charles* (March 18, 1947) was born during the family's
San Fernando Valley years. When Billy was five years old, a big
change came to the Uber family.
Ted and Louella were given an opportunity to purchase the Van
Ness Water Gardens, located in the Mt. Baldy foothills in Upland,
California, from Ted's cousin, Edith Montgomery Van Ness and
her husband Robert. The family moved to the Gardens and by 1952,
they were growing and marketing water lilies during the first
the year, and making and marketing aluminum gift and art wares
during the last half of the year. Bill remembers his dad working
in the basement crafting metal gift ware while listening to the
Arthur Godfrey Time radio program.
As the Van Ness Water Gardens business expanded to become one
of the most prominent suppliers and hybridizers of water lilies
in the world, the aluminum business contracted but ever the artist,
Ted would continue to create metal art throughout his life.
Ted* had befriended horticulturist and waterlily hybridizer Martin
Randig of San Bernardino. Randig was a bit distrustful, and had
developed many new water lilies that had not been offered to
the commercial trade. In Ted, he found the friend and colleague
within whom he could place his life's work. The Van Ness Water
Gardens began exclusive introductions of these unique new water
lilies with superior colors, fragrances and growth habits. Water
lilies with exotic names like Afterglow and Green Smoke
began appearing on magazine covers and soon orders were arriving
from such far flung locales as the presidential palace in Zaire
and the Emperor of Japan.
The years at the Gardens were initially hard, but the work began
to pay off and Ted and Louella enjoyed establishing roots in
the community. Ed and JoAnn graduated from Chaffey High School
in Ontario. Later, Bill would graduate from the new Upland High
School. Ted and Louella became active in the First Baptist Church
of Ontario. They made many friends and after cherished trips
to Hawaii, hosted luau parties, complete with roasted pig. Hilltoppers
was a group of couples living in San Antonio Heights who would
take turns hosting each other for dinner once a month and Ted
and Louella enjoyed these gatherings. When it was their turn
to host, their home was beautifully decorated with scented tropical
water lilies and fragrant roses from Aileen McNeil's garden across
When it came time for their children to wed, JoAnn was the
first. In a ceremony held in the Gardens, JoAnn married James
Edwin Skare on September 20, 1958. Their wedding cake was featured
in the gazebo where some years later, Ted and Louella would cut
the cake for their own 50th wedding anniversary.
JoAnn and Jim would become parents to Jamie Lu* (October 30,
1959) and Jonathan Theodore (October 19, 1964).
Shortly thereafter, Ed was next, marrying Marie Alece (Lisa)
Slack, whom he met while in the Air Force.
The family had a respite from weddings until Bill married
Carolyn Hayes on August 29, 1967. Bill and Carolyn had met at
Chaffey College, and she passed muster with Ted and Louella when
they learned she could type 75 words a minute! Their wedding,
held at the Chapel of the Bells in Ontario, was a lovely affair,
despite 107 degrees and no air conditioning. Beautiful water
lilies adorned the pews and bridal arch.
Ted and Louella loved the water gardens and their customers
but they also enjoyed the off season when they could take trips.
They loved to travel and saw much of the world. They traveled
to Cabo San Lucas to fish before the world discovered it. They
adored cruises and Ted especially enjoyed telling us how the
Panama Canal worked. Hawaii was a favorite destination and they
also visited Asia and Europe. In 1970, they took a special trip
to Europe, including a three week visit to Ankara, Turkey to
meet their newest grandchild, Tina.
Ted and Louella retired gradually from the Gardens. Following
his Air Force service in the fall of 1971, Bill and Carolyn moved
back to the area, buying a small home in Cucamonga, and began
working at the Gardens. At the same time, Ted and Louella began
looking for an area to retire, settling on the small community
of Baywood Park, near Morro Bay. They bought an ocean view lot
in a quiet residential area and began planning their dream home.
Building it themselves, the home featured lots of wall space
to display their expanding collection of antique clocks, a huge
rock fireplace, a custom stained glass window of Morro Rock and
plenty of bedrooms for visiting grandchildren. By 1976, they
were living there nearly full time and Bill and Carolyn had purchased
the Gardens, turning the old family home into offices.
By 1983, Ted and Louella were wishing they lived a little closer
to their family, so they began looking for a new area to settle.
Still wanting to be close to the ocean, they explored the North
San Diego County region and quickly decided on Carlsbad. Between
the mild coastal climate, the magnificent flower fields where
ranunculus are grown by the acres for bulb production, and the
many interesting beach towns up and down the coast to explore,
they'd found a perfect location. A brand new two story, four-bedroom
home, just blocks from the ocean was soon filling with antiques
and clocks and memories of family holidays.
Ted and Louella meet new great-grandaughter
Makenna Marie with proud mom Tina* in 1999.
In 1995, at the age of 87, Ted's lifetime of work as an artist
in metal was recognized. The National Hammered Aluminum Association
honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award "For serving
as a paradigm of the Arts and Crafts Movement throughout more
than 60 years of continued productivity in the creation of handmade
aluminum gift and art objects".
Ted passed away March 21, 2007, at 99 years of age.
* Indicates people for whom waterlily cultivars are named.