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Updated 2:30 PM April 12, 2006




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Rodger Keller

Rodger Keller, a horticulturist retired from Matthaei Botanical Gardens, was murdered in his home in Key West, Fla. Authorities believe the killing took place March 20 and have charged an Alabama man with the crime.

Keller, 63, remained active in the field of horticulture in Key West where he was a member of the Garden Club and Orchid Society. As a senior horticultural assistant at Matthaei, Keller worked for more than two decades wowing staff and volunteers with his knowledge.

"He was like a walking plant encyclopedia," says Connie Bailie, a horticulturist at the gardens. "He was very knowledgeable about growing plants as well as plant biology."

Known not only for his vast knowledge of plants but also for his willingness to share it with others, Keller extended that generosity into his private life. He often shared his home with others who needed a place to stay.

"He was much loved by volunteers and visitors to the Botanical Gardens because he was willing to take the time to talk with people about the plants he so dearly loved," says Adrienne O'Brien, a collections specialist at the gardens who worked with Keller for 18 years. "He made the listener feel special because he took the time to completely answer a question."

After his retirement, Keller moved to Key West, where he claimed the climate was better for his health. There he worked part-time for the Monroe County Association for Retarded Persons, which maintained a plant shop. Keller also was working on a paper about what to plant in hurricane-prone areas.

There was no information available at press time regarding burial or memorials.

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