Terry Bates, 75, of Enterprise was a self-described workaholic for most of his life and it wasn’t until he came to Wallowa County that he finally learned to slow down.
Well, slow down by his standards.
Terry married Irene shortly before the two graduated from high school in Flint, Mich., in 1961 and he’d already started his chosen profession –– horticulture and landscaping.
Seven years later after working two jobs and attending university at the same time, and he had two degrees from the University of Michigan, one in horticulture and one in education.
The degree in education allowed him to teach horticulture and to teach students “they didn’t need to go to college.” The irony of that statement is not lost on him and a sly and silly sense of humor peppers every interaction.
The couple came to Oregon in 1969 because “it was the center of the nursery industry in the United States” and Terry began building his Gresham-based nursery empire.
He and Irene had two children, Kathy Bates and Karen (Ernie) Josie, both now in Wallowa County. But the couple split in 1975 and though Terry said the love was always there, they didn’t get back together for several decades — a situation Terry now blames on his inability to slow down.
By 1978 he’d had enough of the urbanization of Gresham and headed to Redmond where he developed another landscape business and established Redmond Greenhouse, the only nursery in Central Oregon at the time. He eventually did what he always did — he expanded until he had three nurseries in Redmond and Bend.
Then, unhappy with the population surge in Bend and unhappy in his life, he wrote himself a $20,000 check, signed away his business to his employees, and headed for the high lonesome of Wallowa County.
He began again in the nursery business, created Eastern Oregon Nursery and Landscaping (now owned by an employee from the early days, Brian Coughlin), and was head designer for the $3 million downtown revitalization and beautification of the City of Joseph.
Irene returned to his life in 2000 and they now operate (a second iteration of) Wallowa County Nursery in Enterprise.
They are active in their community, contribute to many community endeavors, and continue to be involved in maintaining and improving the design of Joseph Main Street.
Q. Why did you choose Wallowa County?
A. It was the “end of the road.” I came thinking I could escape the development I’d seen in Gresham and Bend — and when development came to Wallowa County, I helped shape what that would look like.
Q. What has Wallowa County taught you?
A. I think it taught me for sure to slow down and smell the flowers. It taught me there was a place where I could slow down.
Q. What was the first book you can recall checking out of the library, and can you recommend a book you’ve read recently?
A. A book I can recall (from my youth) was a book on science. It was probably Hortus Third a two-volume, 1,312-page monster book on horticulture written at the turn of the century by Liberty Hyde Bailey. I was probably 20.
The one I reread all the time is a book of Robert Frost poems. “The Birches” is my favorite poem.