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 (800K). You will need Adobe Reader.

Ted Uber
Van Ness Water Gardens, California USA

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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 City.

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 in Detroit.

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 half of
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 the street.

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.

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