Obituary: David Lannom

Beloved professor, noted horticulturalist

 

David “Dave” Lannom died at his home in Claremont on May 12, 2016 with his family by his side. He was 70.

Mr. Lannom was born on November 24, 1945, Thanksgiving Day, in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Marguerite and William Lannom. He graduated from Bishop Amat in 1963 and attended Mt. San Antonio College, graduating in June of 1966. He continued his education at Cal Poly Pomona, earning a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture in 1969. 

He went to work there as an assistant professor of horticulture from 1977 until 1984. He worked for a time in nursery management to fine-tune his skills in the industry and then returned to teaching at Mt. San Antonio College in 1985, where he continued to educate students for the remainder of his life.

Mr. Lannom married Julia “Julie” Thomas on January 14, 1967 and they had five children, Marguerite, Constanza, Victoria, Shawn and Katie. They were married for more than 49 years and were residents of Claremont since 1969, except for four years spent in San Diego and four years in Santa Barbara.

Dave, as he insisted students call him, completed his master’s degree at Cal Poly Pomona while teaching at Mt. SAC, where he went on to become department chairman. He stepped down due to health issues in 2005 though he continued to teach and oversee the horticulture unit, which he had built up during his years at Mt. SAC. They sold plants to people in the nursery industry and wholesale to the public, counting Disneyland among their customers. Disneyland dedicated the “Disneyland Rose” to him in 2010.

Mr. Lannom’s biggest passions were his plants and his students. He delighted in seeing his love for his profession influence and guide his students. If you wanted to take a class from him there was always a place for you; he never turned a student away. When he taught plant identification, he used Claremont as a living laboratory to demonstrate the mature plants and would walk classes through the City of Trees for reviews and tests. Often there would be 30 to 40 students strolling through the Village and Claremont Colleges areas on a Saturday morning, with Mr. Lannom lecturing and his dog Dixie in tow.

Mr. Lannom always wore Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts to his classes. A 2013 Examiner article, published when Mr. Lannom received the Southern California Horticulture Society’s “Horticulturist Of The Year” award, noted his casual appeal. “Known for his trademark teaching style of swirling hard data with stories from his fabled career, the professor has earned fierce loyalty amongst his students through turning even irritating little moments into opportunities to have some fun. For example, when a student’s cell phone goes off during a lecture, the offender is assigned to supply chips and salsa for the class.”

The article quoted a former student, Robert Walton, who said he wasn’t particularly motivated to continue his formal education after high school. Nonetheless, he went on to become a forestry assistant with the LA County Fire Department. “Without Dave’s influence, I don’t think I would have graduated from college,” Mr. Walton said. “He led by doing. Not just in horticulture: in life.”

Mr. Lannom was founder of Palm Canyon Growers in Claremont at Towne and Base Line. He had first started Lannom Nurseries on that lot in 1973, after moving from across the street at the Peairs property, which is now Sunrise Adult Living. In his spare time, he presented lectures and workshops on topics like pruning and soil care at venues like the Los Angeles Arboretum and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden as well as landscaping his yard as a lush specimen garden.

During his career Mr. Lannom received numerous scholarships, recognitions and awards including: Agriculture Alumni of the Year, Cal Poly Pomona, 1996; the Bert Kelliman Award for Excellence in Teaching by the California Association of Nurserymen, 1998; Outstanding Educator Award, Mt. SAC, 1998; CANGC Sprinkler Can Award for Years of Meritorious Service, 2004; Mt. SAC Distinguished Faculty Award, 2004 and Mt. SAC Alumnus of the Year, 2015. He was inducted into the Green Industry Hall of Fame in 2015.

Mr. Lannom is survived by his wife, Julie Lannom; his daughters, Marguerite (Timothy) Lannom Wheeler of La Verne, Constanza Lannom of Pomona and Victoria (Timothy) Lannom Hayward, also of Pomona; his grandson Timothy Hayward, Jr. of Austin, Texas; and his granddaughter Lizzie and grandson Jordie as well as two foster grandchildren, all of Pomona.

He also leaves his sisters Meri (Roger) Edgerton of Verdi, Nevada; Frances (Pat) Lannom Shechan of Spanish Springs, Nevada; and Colleen Scott of Reno, Nevada and his brother John Lannom of Sun Valley, Nevada, along with numerous nieces and nephews and one great-nephew. He will also be missed by his surrogate son and family, Jesus Ramirez and Susanna; their sons Jesus Jr. and Josue and their daughter Andrea, who was Dave’s goddaughter, all of Glendora. He was preceded in death by his infant son Shawn and infant daughter Katie and his sister Maureen Lannom.

Services will be held on June 11 at 10 a.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church, located at 600 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona. Per Dave’s wishes, guests are encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts or other tropical attire. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his memory to one of the causes close to his heart. These include the Dave Lannom “Seeds of Hope” Memorial Garden, where fruit and vegetables are grown for a food pantry (New Song Church, 945 W. Covina Blvd., San Dimas CA 91771); the foster family agency Serenity Infant Care Homes (600 S. Grand Ave., Covina, CA  91724); and the “Angel Fund” to assist pet-owners unable to afford veterinary care, in memory of Dane Lannom,  La Verne Animal Hospital, 2132 Bonita Ave., La Verne, CA  91750.

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