Richard Allen Colbert
July 3, 1956 – November 29, 2014
Richard Allen Colbert, age 58, of Newark, DE, passed away at home on November 29, 2014. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April of 2012.
A native Delawarean, Rick was born in Wilmington and was a 1974 graduate of Newark High School. He attended the University of Delaware, graduating in 1978 with a BS degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in plant science and ornamental horticulture. He graduated with Honors and Distinction. He returned to the University of Delaware to study business and graduated with an MBA in 1986.
Rick was committed to the field of public horticulture and enjoyed sharing his knowledge of plants. In 1978, Rick became the first horticulturist for the City of Newark before becoming the Supervisor of Parks. He developed and implemented a program to beautify the traffic islands throughout Newark using low maintenance plants. During this time, he wrote articles that were nationally published and received local and national awards for his innovative ideas.
In 1991, Rick became the executive director of Tyler Arboretum in Media, PA. During his 23 year tenure at Tyler, he played an instrumental role in transforming the arboretum to become a regional, family-oriented destination. Tyler experienced significant growth and improvements under Rick’s leadership, including expanding the educational outreach, increasing the community programs available, and restoring, upgrading and maintaining plant collections.
Rick received honors and awards for his contributions to the field of horticulture. He was honored with the 1988 Award of Merit from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008, and the American Public Gardens Association Service Award in 2012. Throughout his career, Rick served on multiple professional committees and was a guest speaker across the country. He recently served on the Longwood Graduate Program Executive Committee and the Scott Medal and Award committee. He was the treasurer for the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta from 2002 to 2006 and was involved in the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Rick shared his love of woodworking with his family and friends. Many have been recipients of handmade items, including the famous “Rick Rack.” He passed along his joy of gardening and interest in plants to his children and grandchildren. Rick enjoyed playing golf and tennis. He ventured abroad to Ecuador, France, England and Italy. He always dreamed of playing golf and visiting gardens in Scotland. In July, his brother, Tab, fulfilled his dream. Most of all, Rick enjoyed his time at the beach with his supportive wife, Cathy.
Rick was dedicated to his family and his faith. He was always surrounded by a loving family that he cared for deeply. He was very proud of his family and enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren.
Rick is survived by his wife of 36 years, Catherine (Horney) Colbert; daughters, Erin Challburg (Joseph) and Kimberly Brady (John); siblings, Debi Thomas (Jeff), Tab Colbert (Beth) and Sharon Whetham (Kevin); granddaughters, Gwenevere and Avery Challburg, Bridget, Jonalynn and Rayanne Brady; father, Ralph Colbert; mother-in-law, Patricia Horney; and a large extended family. Rick was preceded in death by his mother, Patricia Colbert and father-in-law Bill Horney.
A visitation for family and friends will be held from 2 pm until 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 2014 at the Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home, 121 W. Park Place, Newark, DE 19711. A memorial service will be held at 11 am on Monday morning, December 8, 2014, at the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, 292 W. Main Street, Newark, DE. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Tyler Arboretum, 515 Painter Road, Media, PA 19063 or to the First Presbyterian Church of Newark at the address listed above.