Passings: Rose hybridizer and honorary degree recipient Felicitas Svejda dies at age 95

Felicitas SvejdaSTORY imageYork honorary degree recipient Felicitas Svejda of Ottawa, Ont., died peacefully at Ottawa General Hospital on Jan. 19 from complications following a battle with Alzheimer’s. She was 95 years old.

Born in Vienna in 1920, she obtained a PhD in Genetics and moved to Ottawa in the 1950s to breed grains for cereals for Agriculture Canada. On her arrival, Svejda was assigned to roses at the Central Experimental Farm and with the resources of government behind her; she became arguably Canada’s most successful hybridizer of roses that would withstand the extremes of temperature that Canadians experience. Her introductions are respected in all circumpolar countries. She named each new hybrid rose after early Canadian explorers and quickly became known as the mother of the Canadian Explorer Roses.

The Canadian Explorer Roses are her only descendants. One such rose “John Cabot” was awarded a certificate of merit from the Royal National Rose Society in England in 1958.

York University awarded Svejda a degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa in 2000.

Her recollections were published serially in both official languages in the journal Roses-Canada and in English later as a book in 2008 titled The Canadian Explorer Roses published by National-Roses-Canada.

A memorial service will be held in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 19 at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, 125 MacKay St. Short tributes about Svejda are invited from the public will appear in the next issue of Roses-Canada. To submit a tribute, email