In the Garden

Three Volunteers Shine for Dallas Blooms 2023

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Judith and John Umberger, and Gary Chapman

Dallas Arboretum volunteers are the backbone of the garden.

In 2022 alone, they provided nearly 85,000 hours of support.

Three special volunteers — Judith and John Umberger, and Gary Chapman — are taking on the additional duty of serving as chairs for the Dallas Blooms spring festival from Feb. 25 to Apr. 16.

They’ll be onsite helping guests and offering a friendly face for those who need assistance.

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Gary Chapman
Gary Chapman

Arboretum visitors who’ve ridden on a tram have likely been driven by Gary Chapman. He and his wife, Kathy, have long been Dallas Arboretum members, and six months before his retirement in 2017 he knew he wanted to drive a tram. He does so now, speaking to the Arboretum’s history and landmarks as he transports guests across the grounds.

“The best part of volunteering is getting to meet guests from all over the world,” Gary said. “I enjoy giving tours to our guests that are only able to enjoy the Arboretum from a tram. Hopefully, I can help brighten someone’s day with a tour.”

In addition to driving his weekly tram, he is also chair-elect of the Arboretum’s Volunteer Advisory Board (VAB), which oversees the volunteers and plans special activities and socials.

Living in Oak Cliff his entire life, Chapman has been married for 51 years to Kathy. They have two daughters and one granddaughter. When he’s not at the garden, Gary sings in his church choir at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church. He said he also enjoy cooking — and even cleaning the kitchen afterward.

Judith and John Umberger
Judith and John Umberger

East Dallas couple Judith and John Umberger have volunteered for more than a year, tallying nearly 750 hours of service.

Judith has a long history of being around gardens. Her dad was a horticulturist and served as the assistant director of the National Arboretum, the founding director of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and the director of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Born in Washington, D.C., Judith grew up in Chicago. John is from Tennessee; it was there the couple met at the University of Tennessee.

John spent 35 years as an engineer with ExxonMobil. His career took the family overseas before retirement. He now enjoys driving a tram and meeting people from around the globe who visit the Arboretum.

Judith had a long career in education with both domestic and international assignments. Judith is trained as a DeGolyer docent, works the Children’s Adventure Garden information booth, and provides tours of the Arboretum as an Event Guide.

“We both enjoy sharing the Arboretum with visitors,” Judith said. “It’s good to be outside in a beautiful, happy place with interesting people.”

Said John of the Arboretum’s Dallas Blooms spring festival: “We enjoy the brilliant color of the tulips, especially after the drabness of winter.”

Outside the garden, Judith enjoys Aqua Fit, reads with a kindergartner at the local elementary school, and shelves books at the library nearby. John golfs and writes a newsletter for their neighborhood association. The couple has three daughters and six grandchildren.

The Dallas Arboretum is fortunate to have Gary Chapman and Judith and John Umberger as this year’s Dallas Blooms chairs.

Visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden during Dallas Blooms—Enjoy the hospitality of Gary, Judith, and John, and stay for the beautiful flowers.

What:   Dallas Blooms 2023: The Great Contributors

Where: Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden | 8525 Garland Road, Dallas

When:  February 25 – April 16 | Visit the website for programs and hours

Web:    Click Here

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Juliette Coulter

Juliette Coulter is president of The Coulter Group, a public relations firm.

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