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Flo Hannah Tributes

These tributes were collected from co-workers and friends of Flo Hannah.

See this page in the Newsroom for information about Flo's passing.

This is a work in progress as more tributes are coming in.

Russ Pitman Park field trip
Sheryl Marquez, Flo, Warren Pruess, Dr. Brown

Native Plant Society of Texas field trip to Russ Pitman Park, April 29, 2012.
Photo by Don Verser


From the day Flo began as a Sanctuary Assistant at Houston Audubon in 2002, good changes began to happen. Houston Audubon sanctuaries far and wide—especially Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary—began to get badly needed attention. Flo quickly won the respect and friendship of the Audubon Docent trail crew which had been handling most of the Edith Moore grounds and trail maintenance under the leadership of Don Gray. She then made friends and allies for Houston Audubon everywhere as she took on the daunting job of improving oversight and maintenance of Houston Audubon sanctuaries from the Piney Woods to Galveston Island. Everything she did was with enthusiasm and a sense of humor, making even the toughest jobs fun for all involved.

Flo's interest in native plants, especially grasses, was always evident but became a dominating force when loss of the Saums Road Prairie became imminent. Her efforts to save Saums Road Prairie were the beginning of the crusade she helped found and lead with Houston Audubon encouragement and support. That experience resulted in the now extensive network of organizations committed to saving prairies and promoting native plants. It was a crusade she led the rest of her life with close friends and allies, seeking recognition always for them, never for herself. She changed Houston Audubon and the conservation world for the better in everything she did.

- Joy Hester


Flo Hannah--our dear friend, colleague, native plant expert and champion of our endangered coastal prairies passed this afternoon surrounded by family and lots of love. Flo was a remarkable person and tireless, passionate advocate for nature. She was loved and respected by the many she worked with, mentored, advised and touched with her passion, expertise, and sweet humor. Flo will be missed beyond measure and remembered always for her steadfast dedication to the plants, birds, and people of the Texas Gulf Coast. May we all carry her prairie fire forward.

- Helen Drummond


Flo lead the Natives Nursery including the recent expansion project. Many plants have been propagated and distributed across the city. The Houston Arboretum native plant sale was supplied with many plants. The Katy Prairie Conservancy school pocket prairies used many of the plants from the nursery. Plants were taken to offsite sales such as Earth Day at Fulshear.

Flo built up and ran her own native plant nursery - Hannah Native Grasses. She grew many species of native prairie grasses and sold them to those working on garden projects or restorations.

She was an excellent teacher and mentor regarding native prairie plants and encouraged all her nursery volunteers to visit prairies, collect seeds, and grow native prairie plants.

- Julie d’Ablaing


Flo meant a lot to me regarding her coastal prairie conservation passion and her direct assistance with the Deer Park Prairie Flora, Cullen Preserve, and many prairie sites we visited together. I learned a lot about the local flora of the upper coast from Flo. This is a huge loss and I know how dear of friend she was to both of you.

- Jason R. Singhurst


UH Coastal Center fieldtrip
Flo on UH Coastal Center fieldtrip

May 15, 2010. Photo by Don Verser

I will so miss Flo because she was a true fellow prairie enthusiast, conservationist, and Tallamite. She referred to herself as a Tallamite, someone who Tallamizes (preaches) about Doug Tallamy’s book "Bringing Nature Home."

She also gave Tallamy talks showing what bird food looks like, i.e., caterpillars and other insects.

Flo went on numerous Native Plant Society field trips led by Dr. Brown, took his taxonomy class, and took on the challenge of grass identification. Often a microscope is required to key out grasses. I think she made numerous visits to Dr. Brown's Spring Branch Science Center herbarium. 

Included here is a picture of a Native Plant Society field trip with Dr. Brown and Warren Pruess, another old botany friend. Also a picture of a field trip to Nash Prairie led by David Rosen. And another picture showing a field trip to UH Coastal Prairie.

Another thing Flo did other than prairies was the work she did with Mike Lange and connecting him and his Columbia Bottomlands project with Houston Audubon.

- Don Verser

Nash Prairie fieldtrip
Flo on Nash Prairie

Fieldtrip led by David Rosen, May 17, 2008.
Photo by Don Verser


The first time that I met Flo, she was teaching a Grass Identification class for the Cradle of Texas Master Naturalist down at Demi John near the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. I had become a Master Naturalist in 2001 and I was attending this class for Advance Training credits. I couldn't wait to take this class from Flo and made sure that I did not miss it because after she made her presentation, we were going to go see a patch of Yellow Indiangrass on the side of the road. I had become excited about knowing and seeing real native prairie grasses after my initial training from Dr. Barron Rector and Dr. John Jacob about The Gulf Coast Tallgrass Prairie, and hydrology. I was in awe of what she was doing at the time, going and finding patches of remnant prairies and documenting and collecting and rescuing plants and trying to find ways to preserve them. She gave her presentation with a calm and quiet confidence. She seemed genuinely joyful and thankful to be able to share her love and passion and knowledge of the plants and fate of the prairie.

It was in that PowerPoint program that she showed a slide of what I remember her saying was the last pristine prairie left in Brazoria County that she knew of, and it was in the middle of a ranch on CR25. She had been taking seeds from it along the side of the road and jokingly said that so far she had not been shot. My hands started shaking because at that point I realized that the ranch Flo was talking about was on the Kittie Nash Groce Ranch that had been willed in part to St Mary's Episcopal Church in West Columbia, where my husband Peter was the rector. I went home and told Peter what the Church owned and that is what started us on a 10-plus year journey in preserving the Nash Prairie.

Flo, in all of those years, was a constant source of support and always ready to help promote the Nash whenever we asked and even when we didn't, like the Cash for Nash Project idea, that so impressed the diocesan treasurer that he bought 10 Texas coneflowers for his on yard in Houston. In our very first Prairie Day held at St Mary's, she talked to the parishioners to tell them what a treasure they had in the Nash Ranch. Flo on numerous occasions came out to the ranch to assess the rest of the 12,000-acre ranch with David Rosen, Mike Lange, Peter, me and at times, other biologists and botanists. It was always a great day when Flo showed up, she was happy and grateful to be out on the prairie and in the Columbia Bottomlands. She made me happy and grateful to be there also. I can't count the many times she came out to collect seeds or teach a class or help with a tour. I remember the many conversations we would have out on the Nash while we collected seeds. I remember collecting seed out on the Nash with Flo, Peter, and Don Verser, during the time that the Saums Prairie was destroyed and the realization that Flo had, that maybe the Nash would go the way of the Saums, and we could not let that happen. And, as always when we were with Flo, the reality of the situation was never minimized, but we would have a new resolve to double down and keep fighting. That is what Flo did she inspired us to be and do more and not give up. That we would find a way. She inspired this in the way that she shared her knowledge with a generous and humble kind spirit. She seemed to have endless energy.

In this past couple of years, we had been meeting Flo out on Follett's Island with Mike Lange and other close friends of Flo's and I discovered her first love, the coast. It was always such a joy to be with her because she was always joyful in the places and with the people she loved. I think the word that comes to my mind the most when I think of Flo is gratefulness and kindness. When we taught a grass id course together for the Master Naturalists, she expressed her gratitude working with me and doing the class together. And the last time I was at the Nash with Flo she again expressed the gratefulness she felt about life. At the time Peter was too sick to join us on the prairie and I expressed my sadness and hopelessness and exhaustion from taking care of Peter. And in the way that only Flo could do, she did not minimize the situation, but acknowledged the difficulties and basically just said you can do this, and gave me practical advice on how to proceed. I will be forever grateful for Flo.

- Susan Conaty


What an awful loss, not just for family and friends but for the world of nature conservation advocates. I have known Flo for almost 40 years. She was responsible for introducing me to Houston Audubon and then spent nearly a year trying to train me with a “Houston Audubon 101” course of her devising. Obviously the primary focus was the connection between the quality of habitat and the fauna that are attracted to it. As a result, I was occasionally able to avoid making a complete idiot of myself among other board members who were actually qualified for the job. She will really be missed!

- Ben Hulsey


Yes, I hired her. We had birded together before that. I met her when she was starting her graduate work on Henslow’s Sparrow, but had never seen one. I took her to see one on a pipeline right of way east of Houston, and she was so excited. She, Joy Hester, Sara Bettencourt and I did the Attwater Christmas Bird Count for many years.

- Jeff Mundy

Webmaster note: The Henslow's Sparrow is one of the desktop wallpapers used on the staff computers at Houston Audubon. 


I first met Flo in about 2002 at Greens Bayou. I was on a Native Plant Society field trip and she was birding looking for a Clay-colored Sparrow. She walked up to ask me what I was looking at through my scope; I said take a look. She did and then smiled and laughed that warm and easy laugh of hers and said "That's the first time I have ever seen anyone looking at a water lily in a scope." We talked a bit.

This was before she became so interested in plants. I became acquainted with Flo and watched her love of native plants and especially grasses and prairies grow. We will remember her for all the wonderful work she did with grasses and prairies. And I, personally, will always remember her warm hearted smile and laugh, and the gentle soul that she was.

- Glenn Olsen


Willow Waterhole Native Prairie
 
Flo was an invaluable prairie enthusiast who greatly assisted Harris County Flood Control District and mentored staff over more than a decade. She helped discover and map the prairie remnants at the Willow Waterhole Detention Basin, advised on opening up and restoring the 15-acre prairie site, and led the charge in rescuing prairie plants from the adjacent future basin site. She engaged many volunteers in the plant rescue efforts which included digging up more than 400 plants over a 30-acre site over three weekends, repotting plants, securing a site to nurse the plants at the nearby Houston Independent School District Science Center, and then watering and caring for the plants over a two-year period. Through this entire process, Flo demonstrated her love of prairies, her interest in teaching and mentoring, and her strong leadership skills. We are eternally indebted to Flo’s enthusiasm and character.

– Carolyn White

Willow Waterhole workday
Willow Waterhole workday

Nov 11, 2010. Photo by Don Verser


What a great legacy she leaves behind. Her dedication and commitment touched so many. She used her abilities for positive impact, and everyone on this thread has fond memories of her impact on them. 

I was walking alone late one afternoon in the Rio Grande Valley brushland back in the 1980s. And ahead of me in the distance walking back towards me was a solo woman. Who were we to interrupt each other’s quiet and personal moments in this environment? We met with a smile of recognition, a mutual greeting of welcome. We walked back together, largely in silence, enjoying the sharing of a quiet beautiful moment. 

That is how I will remember her. We will all miss Flo, but each of us are glad to have shared a portion of our paths together.

- Steve Gast


I miss Flo very much. I miss her enthusiasm, her commitment to people and projects, her willingness to try something new and to make it succeed. I am forever grateful to have known Flo, and to have had her friendship.

- Mary Carter


A few early remembrances:

MIDSUMMER, 2002: Meanwhile, another charming newcomer, Flo Hannah, has ben added to the Houston Audubon Staff with the title of Sanctuary Steward (previously my unofficial title since joining Audubon Docent Guild in 1989). She is in charge of such things as finding tasks for the trail work crew to do. She and new boardmember Glenn Olsen want to rejuveninte the plantigs around the cabin, mostly with native plants.

SEPTEMBER, (three months later)... Flo introduced what was to become her signature project for much of her Edith L. Moore career: removing dead and dangerous trees. She brought in a crew to remove several potentially troublesome ones: several were dead pines near the entry drive and near Tosca. At my request they topped the previously County Champion Carolina Linden next to the cabin because it was completely hollow, its eastern side was deeply decayed, and it was a serious threat to fall on the cabin. A massive century-old red oak that had succomed to canker just east of the pond was dropped along the pond edge and over the Dipping Deck (without harming it).

"Flo and Houston Audubon VP-Education, Glenn Olsen (also president of the Native Plant Society) have scheduled a Gardening/Native-Plant-Planting-Party for Saturday, September 14, that will bring in many native plants that will be beautiful, educational, and a delight to visiting birds and butterflies. This has long been a dream at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, actively pursued by volunteers like Martha Henschen, Sandi Hoover, Susan Billetdeaux, your editor, and others."

Flo did not participate in trail work projects at that time. She did appear during a volunteer work day with a group from Holy Spirit Episcopal Schol on April 12, 2003, – grading and re-sodding the lawn east of the cabin. She and I finished the day erecting a temporary fence around the new lawn. Nearly a year later (March, 2004) I wrote that beginning around the end of January, I had begun constructing a brick and fieldstone garden path for her in the wildflower area west of the cabin. On Saturday, February 7, "nine charming, vivacious, but resolute Girl Scouts" arrived to haul bricks to the site and stack them beside the trail-to-be. After a nature tour, they filled buckets with damp sand and lugged them to the site – and then they returned on Monday after school too do it again. The May newsletter notes that in March we had "continued laying Flo’s garden path." Eventually, I did finish it (and it’s still there).

In October, 2003, BP volunteers, led by Aaron Stoley, erected a rabbit-proof split-rail (and varmit-wire) fence around the new native-plant area at the cabin. Then and thereafter the Trail Crew repaired, maintained and moderated that fence which I called "Flo’s half-acre."

Flo and I had become close friends. I have professed for years "to be a geologist by profession and a naturalist by nature." As a naturalist, I am largely self-taught. Since 1970, I have volunteered briefly at Armand Bayou when it first opened, at the Houston Museum of Natural History for more than 30 years, the Houston Arboretum for twelve years and Edith L. Moore for 29 – and I still don’t know anything about grasses and forbs. According to her obituary, Flo earned a degree from the University of Texas, then returned to acquire a Masters degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M at the age of 52. She was a stalwart in several native plant societies, specializing in grasses and forbs – the things I know the least about.

- Don Gray


From an email interview with Jaime Gonzalez, Community Conservation Director, Katy Prairie Conservancy

Coastal Prairie Partnership

Is it correct that you and Flo were co-founders of the CPP?  Yes. When was it founded? April 17, 2009 (on Flo's birthday) and what was the immediate impetus for creating the partnership? After the destruction of the Saums Road Prairie and a successful multi-institutional rescue effort, it became apparent that we needed two things (1) better coordination, planning, and communication between groups and individuals saving and restoring prairies, and (2) the need to elevate the status of the prairie would take a truly collaborative approach. Flo and I were also very concerned about the long term fate of the University of Houston Coastal Center and other local "platinum prairies." I assume you and Flo were officers?  I was the first president and she was the first vice president. She served as vice president for 3 years and was active on the board for the first 5 years.
 
Deer Park Prairie Preserve / College Park Prairie

I find the web site info, linked below to be excellent.  And the start of a successful $4 million campaign!

Why is it called the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve? It is named the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie because Dean Lawther, the former owner and a real estate developer, was willing to sell the property for conservation purposes - it was part of the final negotiation. Did Terry Hershey donate a million for the purchase? $2 million.
 
Saums Prairie

We typically referred to it as the Saums Road Prairie. I’ve not found anything on the web about it. There's a YouTube video I made about the rescue effort. There is an accompanying Texas Parks article.

I know it was captured in August but do not know in what year? 2008. It is also important to know that Flo was awarded the 2009 Army & Sarah Emmott Conservation Award from the Citizens Environmental Coalition for our leadership role in the Saums Road Prairie rescue.

Wasn’t it inventoried at Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) and then used to create Pocket Prairies? Rescued material was used to make pocket prairies by KPC, Nature Discovery Center, Don Verser, Houston Audubon, Harris County Flood Control, and private individuals.

Are Pocket Prairies a KPC, CPP, NPAT or Flo Hannah innovation? It all happened around the time of the Saums Road Prairie rescue. Our first target pocket prairie project, Whistlestop Prairie in Hermann Park, was an effort lead by KPC and Houston Audubon. Since that time more than 30 pocket prairies have popped up across the region.

I found an excellent Medical Center Pocket Prairie article on the web. Yes, I wrote that article to explain the value of these plantings. We used some of Flo's plants on this project and nearly every other pocket prairie that KPC has helped to install on public school campuses in four school districts, at the University of Houston and University of St. Thomas, at a local church, and a public parks like Buffalo Bayou Park.
 
Nash Prairie

The person to ask about Flo's participation in this effort is Susan Conaty. Susan was very much inspired by Flo and it led her to work with her husband, the late Rev. Peter Conaty, to help save Nash.

- Jaime Gonzalez


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