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that countries which, in future, would accept refugees, would be in need of agricultural workers where the local labour force didn’t want the work and the pay was low. I taught stone fruit cultivation and plant physiology and was surprised at the interest that people showed in the subjects.”


In his efforts to find work, Lapins learned of a Mrs. Federer in Salmon Arm, who was helping war refugees, and wrote to her.


“Soon afterward, I received a job offer from a Bonnie McDonald in Oliver, B.C. She suggested Ella could be a housekeeper for her and her four young children and I could work in the orchard with her father-in-law.”


Lapins accepted the offer because he did not think it likely he could find work in agricultural research elsewhere. It was also possible for the family to emigrate from Germany together. While working as a field labourer in Oliver, Lapins learned of the agricultural research station in Summerland. Some months later, he and Ella were offered a ride to the station. “After lunch,we went back to the office building to meet Mr. Mann and during our conversation he proudly showed me his pruning experiment. I pointed out to him an error he had made in his experiment. He was impressed and immediately asked me if I would like to work with him sometime. I responded that I would like nothing better in the whole world.”


April 1, 1950 Lapins started work at the station planting trees and keeping detailed records of crosses. After obtaining both his masters degree from UBC and Canadian citizenship, Lapins was appointed ‘Research Officer, Agriculture,’ with a specialty in fruit breeding in 1955. “My first five years of work at the Summerland Research Station developed into two main lines of research: frost hardiness and radiation with gamma rays in order to induce mutations and eventually produce better varieties.”


His emphasis in the cherry program was not only on frost hardiness but also on the use of pollen from England that he had read was self-fertilizing. The pollen he ordered arrived after cherries had blossomed in Summerland, so he drove north to Salmon Arm, where he was able to pollinate Lambert blooms.


“These crosses resulted in 100 fruit, and eventually, five seedlings. One of


12 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016


them was self-fertile and produced good fruit. Eventually, in 1970, this cherry was christened Stella and it was the first self- pollinating sweet cherry in the world. I was elated with the success!” In the course of his fruit breeding


work, 13 new fruit selections were named.


Lapins retired at the age of 65 in 1974. “Due to a late start in life, I had been able to devote only 20 years to the work. However, at the same time I was also very happy with my actual accomplishments.”


Reflecting on the cherry variety that bears his name he wrote:


“I did not assign my name to the new variety, nor did I request that it be done, but I was very honoured when it happened. I had made the cross (Van and Stella) 15 years earlier, and together with fruit growers in trial orchards, had observed it for several years and found it to be a good cross. In addition to being self-pollinating and late-bearing, Lapins’ main positive characteristic is that it is crack resistant, a very important feature for Okanagan growers.” During his career and after his retirement, Lapins travelled extensively,


delivered numerous invited lectures and made significant contributions to the scientific literature.


He also received many honours and


awards. Perhaps the most poignant occurred


in 1989 when, at the age of 80, Lapins received a letter from his alma mater, the Latvian Agricultural Academy, wishing him a happy birthday and informing him that he was to be awarded an honorary doctorate for his life’s work as a fruit breeder. He wrote of the room in which the presentation ceremony was held in Jelgava. “It was the very same hall in which, a few days after the beginning of the war in 1941, I had defended my thesis. That time had been exceedingly stressful for me because the professors rushed my presentation while bombs were being dropped from overhead. We didn’t know at the time if they were German or Russian bombs - or if we would even survive!”


Lapins died at the age of 95 in 2004 and Ella at 94 in 2010.


Lapins-Soste, her husband and son buried her parents’ ashes in Lapins’ home village of Vestiena.


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