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Gardener of the year likes to lead, learn
Master Gardener Bill Roper inspects berry bushes on his property. Roper believes in using chemical-free ways, such as this owl statue, to deter animals that eat his plants. - photo by Crystal Ledford

At a glance

The 2013 Forsyth County Master Gardener Awards included:

* MG of the Year and Most Volunteer Hours — Bill Roper

* Annual Service Award — Jackie Grote

* Prestige Award (for promoting the organization in the community) — Bonnie Williams and Kathy Weintraub

* Contributions to Educational Programs — Dennis Whittle and Lou Vanek


-- Source: Forsyth County Master Gardeners

Bill Roper’s retirement has mirrored his working life in many ways.

Among them is his consistent desire to be a project leader for activities that he cares about.

During his career, he worked as project manager for many of Georgia’s governors, helping to oversee such programs as creating the technical college system and the Georgia Public Broadcasting System.

Now that’s he is retired, he still puts those project management skills to use in his work with Forsyth County Master Gardeners.

“I’ve worked on virtually every project we have,” he said. “I’m the project manager for our lunch-and-learn program, our continuing education program for our members. I’ve been president for the past two years, as well as treasurer.”

That leadership and hard work earned Roper, who has been a part of the organization since 2010, when he also joined the county’s Master Naturalists, the Master Gardener of the Year award. He also racked up the most volunteer hours for the organization during 2013.

The west Forsyth resident said he was deeply honored to receive the recognition.

“I was real pleased because you’re nominated by your peers and the vote is by your peers,” he said. “There’s nothing I don’t think that’s as rewarding as being recognized by your peers.”

A native of Atlanta, he and his wife of 51 years, Rebecca, relocated to Forsyth County from Tucker 16 years ago.

Since he was a child, Roper said he has enjoyed being outside.

“One of the reasons we bought this [property] is that it was 3 acres and we had enough room to have gardens,” he said.

The property is surrounded by plants of all types, including the edible variety such as fig trees, blueberries and mint. He also maintains a compost pile for natural fertilization.

Roper’s home was one of those featured in the group’s 2012 Garden Tour, for which the public could buy tickets and tour several of Master Gardeners’ home gardens.

He said taking part in the tour tied into this most favorite activity with the group, which is educating others.

“We had people wondering all over the property and it was a good time to talk with them about different topics they might be dealing with,” he said.

Roper said he also enjoys taking part in the organization’s site visits to people who have requested help.

“We work with people on what their problems are and what their needs are and I enjoy that,” he said.

Likewise, he likes receiving more gardening education himself.

“I’ve been gardening since I was a kid, but when I went through the training program I found out how little I knew,” he said. “As I tell people, I’m becoming progressively less ignorant.”

Kathy Weintraub, one of Roper’s fellow Master Gardener board members, said she was not surprised to see him honored due to his hard work and humble attitude.

“He is an involved leader in all areas of the organization and he is personally responsible for the tremendous progress [or organization] has made,” she said.

“Most importantly, Bill consistently demonstrates the sincere positive attitude of true volunteerism. He motivates Master Gardeners with his leadership and dedication.”

Roper said he’s just happy to finally have time to play in the dirt after years of a demanding career.

“I worked long hours and what have you … I always did gardening, but it was only the weekends or holidays,” he said. “I love being able to do so much now.”