- Written by Erin Udell Erin Udell
- Created: April 01 2013 April 01 2013
Reprinted (with permission) from the January 27 Fort Collins Coloradoan
If you ask Carl Jorgensen what year he moved his family to Fort Collins, his answer will be quick—and right. Want to know about his time as a professor of horticulture at CSU? Oh, he hasn’t forgotten a thing. What about the homes he raised his family in? He can give you the exact addresses. Sitting in his apartment’s living room on the eve of his January 17 birthday, it was hard to believe Jorgensen was just one day away from turning 99.
Jorgenson was the city’s first arborist, and he was key to introducing irises to the community through a number of gardens. Jim Klett, a current horticulture professor who started at CSU the year after Jorgensen retired in 1979, said Jorgensen is known to have been instrumental in the planting of trees along College Avenue and also was active in the International Society of Arboriculture.
His second legacy to the Fort Collins community was in the form of irises. After developing an interest in irises around 1963, Jorgensen started hybridizing them and ended up introducing about forty varieties, some of which he named for his daughters and granddaughters. The university’s iris gardens, where most of Jorgensen’s breeds were planted, have either been wiped out by floods or just discontinued, though some can still be found in the Denver Botanic Gardens or CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden.
When asked about hobbies or his active lifestyle at The Winslow, the independent living community he’s been at since 2005, Jorgensen responded with humor. “I don’t have much of a hobby now,” he said, laughing. “My hobby’s getting up in the morning and realizing I’m still alive.” He added, “I don’t get around much anymore.” “Oh, yeah, you do,” his son Sonny, who was sitting opposite him, playfully interjected. “He goes to bible study every Wednesday and teaches bible study here [at the Winslow] every Thursday.”
And even though he doesn’t get to enjoy many of the things he used to—fishing, cluding his 66 years in Fort Collins, has been characterized by his constant activity and commitment to his family, job, church and city.
Jorgensen grew up in Michigan, where he met his wife, Margaret, at a dance in 1935. After graduating from Michigan State University and teaching horticulture for a few years in high schools, Jorgensen received his first college job offer from Colorado State University. In 1947, he moved his wife and children to Fort Collins. “We actually found his first offer letter for his first contractual year at CSU,” Sonny said. “His year’s salary was $3,100.” “$3,400,” Carl corrected. From 1947 to 1967, Jorgensen worked as a professor of horticulture before taking a two-year assignment in Colombia, where he worked on an agricultural mission for the University of Nebraska.
Coming back to CSU in 1969, he taught for another decade while also raising seven children with Margaret and freelancing for Fort Collins as the city’s first arborist. “While I was city arborist, we planted 2,000 trees in Fort Collins,” Jorgensen said. “We had a plant unit development program, which means you can’t build without being within a certain code and so we managed to keep all the residential areas residential and all the commercial areas commercial.”
After retiring, Klett said Carl and Margaret could still be found attending annual horticulture department events. They also regularly cheered on the rams at CSU football games until Margaret’s death in 2007. Sonny said his father still had season tickets until last year.
Now, Jorgensen dedicates most of his free time to his family, which includes seventeen grandchildren and 26 greatgrandchildren. Looking at a note pad with lines and lines of names and birthdays, he can tell you how old each one is. The oldest great grandchild is grown and out of college. The youngest just got baptized at Saint John’s Lutheran Church, where Carl has been a member since 1947.
After the baptism, Jorgensen said he and his family—a total of 39 people who traveled from across the county to celebrate his birthday—were planning a big lunch outing. “I feel good about it (turning 99) and I’ll tell you why,” Jorgensen said. “I’ll have all of my children and their spouses here and some of my grandkids and great-grandkids.”
“My family is my first love,” he added. “That’s my hobby: my family.”
Get to know your family at Saint John’s! Each month we interview another of our long-time members to find out about their life, their Christian journey and their history at Saint John’s Lutheran.