Feb 7, 2019
Modern American apple orchard pioneer Wally Heuser dies

Wallace E. “Wally” Heuser, a pioneering apple grower based in the West Michigan town of Lawrence has died, his daughter Wanda Heuser Gale said.

He was 90 years old.

“It is with great sorrow that I tell you that Wally passed away yesterday afternoon February 5, 2019,” Heuser Gale said in a written statement. “He was a great dad, grandfather and great-grandfather and he loved his trees. Services will be Feb. 16 at the Hartford United Methodist Church in Hartford, MI, at 11 a.m. with visitation at 10 a.m. and lunch following. We ask that any memorials be made to either the Hartford United Methodist Church or to the International Fruit Tree Association.”

Heuser Gale is President of International Plant Management, a corporation she ran with her dad that provides growers with new fruit tree selections.

Wally Heuser was known for leading the American growers’ adoption of dwarving rootstocks during the 1950s. The now-widespread rootstocks manage apple tree growth and are the foundation of all modern high-density apple orchards. He also helped introduce many new apple varieties.

In 2007, Wally Heuser and other leaders of the movement described the introduction of dwarving rootstocks to Fruit Growers News’ Dick Lehnert. Heuser  said he learned about the rootstocks at college, and his family farm at Hilltop Orchards and Nurseries near Hartford, Mich. was both a producing orchard and a business that sold grafted nursery stock – the perfect place to try using them.

“They used to call me ‘three in a hole’ because I was planting so close,” Heuser said in 2007. “And of course I was accused of just wanting to sell more trees. I used our orchard as a laboratory.”

“It just sorta grew,” Heuser said. “We didn’t know how to handle dwarf trees and we made a lot of mistakes. But we learned from our mistakes and marched forward.”

He was the founder and first president of the International Fruit Tree Association. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, the Michigan Farm Bureau’s highest honor.

Above: Wally Heuser on a trip to Chile. Photo: Wanda Heuser Gale

A full obituary from the family follows: 

Wallace Heuser

Wallace Eugene Heuser, aged 90, died on Tuesday, Feb. 5 in Lawrence, Michigan.  Wallace was born in Hartford, Michigan on January 12, 1929, to Marjorie and Eugene Heuser. He graduated from Hartford high school in 1946. Wallace graduated cum laude from Michigan State University in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science in Pomology. He married Laura Lee Riegel on July 16, 1950.

Wallace E. Heuser is survived by five children: Gary Heuser, Wanda (Dan) Heuser Gale, Stephen Heuser, Jeffrey Heuser and Roy (Rachel) Heuser; nine grandchildren: Laura Lee Gale, Michael Heuser, Jack Gale, Rachel (Nick) Heuser, Susan (Terry) Gale Phillips, Barbara Gale, Helena (Pat) Mengel, Christopher Heuser, Thomas Heuser, Samuel Heuser, Emily Heuser; ten great-grandchildren, Vincent Krohne, Hayle Krohne, Elizabethe Hallan, Jessica Hallan, Summer Phillips, Grace Gale, Taylor Philips, Macy Boyer, Joshua Gale, Daniel Gale; and two great-grandchildren, Alison Cornell and Beverly Cornell.

Wallace was preceded in death by his loving wife Laura, his parents, three brothers, Kenneth, Robert, Earl, sister Joan and daughter-in-law Lori.

Wallace was recognized as a worldwide authority on deciduous fruit varieties, rootstocks and orchard management systems. He was an internationally recognized horticulturist, nurseryman, innovator, and marketing specialist.  Wallace was president of Hilltop Orchards & Nurseries producing over a million fruit trees a year. Wallace was a leader in the introduction of dwarfing fruit tree rootstocks into the US in the 1950s and was the founder and first president of the International Fruit Tree Association. He introduced many fruit industry standard varieties such as Smoothee Golden Delicious, Redchief Red Delicious, Paula Red, Buckeye Gala, and over 130 other varieties that revolutionized the tree fruit industry in the US and around the world.

Wallace was a recipient of the Wilder Medal from the American Pomological Society for fruit variety improvement, the Michigan State University Distinguished Service Award for Agriculture, the Centennial Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan State Horticultural Society, president of the Michigan State Horticultural Society, recipient of the Outstanding Service Award from the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association. director and past president of the National Peach Council, Fruit Man of the Year Award, Michigan Association of Pomesters, recipient of the first Hall of Fame Award, International Fruit Tree Association, recipient of The Michigan Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award, and the Cherry Industry Person of the Year.

A Memorial Service will take place on Saturday, February 16, 2019, at 11 a.m. at the Hartford United Methodist Church. There will be a visitation prior to the memorial service beginning at 10 a.m. with lunch following.

The family asks that memorials be made to the Hartford United Methodist Church, 425 E Main, Hartford MI 49057, or to the International Fruit Tree Association at Ifruittree.org.

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