Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 18
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast


William Flemer III

Dorothy Holmes

Douglas B. Stevens

William Flemer III

William Flemer III, 85, of Princeton, died April 22 at the Medical Center at Princeton.

Born in Princeton, the son of William Flemer Jr. and Emma Wilkinson Flemer, he was a lifelong resident. He attended Miss Fine's School, Nassau Street School, Princeton Country Day School, and The Lawrenceville School, graduating in 1940. He entered Yale University in the class of 1944 and graduated with a B.A. in botany in 1946 and an M.S. in botany in 1947.

His college education was interrupted by World War II. In 1942 he joined the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, one of four units of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. The battalion trained at Fort Meade, Md. and Camp Forrest, Tenn., and sailed to England in May, 1944. Shortly after the Normandy landings, the 603rd moved to the Normandy beachhead, and after the breakout at St. Lo, saw service in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, and finally in Germany. Its mission, which has only recently been declassified, involved deception on a large scale in counter-intelligence activities. The unit is now referred to as the "Ghost Army."

On completion of his Yale education, he married Elizabeth Van Schoonhoven Sinclair of Princeton, a childhood friend, in 1948 in Williamstown, Mass. They returned to Princeton where Mr. Flemer resumed work at Princeton Nurseries, founded in 1913 by his grandfather, William Flemer Sr. He was president of the company from 1972 until 1992, in partnership with his brother, John W. Flemer, who died in 1982. Mr. Flemer achieved international renown in the nursery and horticultural professions through his innovative selection and distribution of improved cultivars of shade and flowering trees. Best known among his introductions are October Glory red maple, Princeton Sentry ginkgo, Shademaster honeylocust, Green Vase zelkova, and Greenspire linden. (He planted the forsythia hedgerow that lines the entrance to Princeton on Washington Road, while his grandfather introduced the Princeton elm variety planted there.)

While he will be best remembered for his many plant introductions, he was also active in many nursery industry associations. He was president of the New Jersey Association of Nurserymen in 1959, of the Eastern Regional Nurseryman's Association in 1964, and the National Association of Plant Patent Owners in 1965. He was president of the American Association of Nurserymen in 1969, and of the International Plant Propagators Society in 1972.

Locally, he was president of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association from 1956 to 1966. He served as senior warden for both Trinity and All Saints' Episcopal Churches in Princeton.

He wrote several books and numerous articles on plants and nursery work, including Shade and Ornamental Trees in Color (1965) and Nature's Guide to Successful Gardening and Landscaping (1972).

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Elizabeth S. Flemer; three children, Louise W. Gross and Harriette (Heidi) D. Hesselein, both of Allentown, N.J., and William Flemer IV of Princeton; and nine grandchildren.

He was buried in the Flemer family plot in the Kingston Cemetery in a private ceremony on April 25.

A memorial service and requiem mass will be held at noon this Saturday, May 5 at All Saints' Church, 16 All Saints' Road, with a reception following at the church.

Memorial contributions may be made to the New Jersey Audubon Society ( or The Nature Conservancy (

Arrangements are under the direction of The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home.

Dorothy Holmes

Dorothy Holmes, RSCJ, of Albany, N.Y., formerly of Princeton, died April 23 of cardiac-respiratory failure. She was 99 and had been a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart for 63 years, having taught at Stuart Country Day School for 26 years.

A gifted teacher and scholar, Sister Holmes held four master's degrees, in mathematics, English, theology, and, lastly, interdisciplinary topics from Manhattanville College in 1966.

She taught in Sacred Heart schools for more than six decades, in Rochester, N.Y., Detroit, Philadelphia, Newton, Mass., and finally Stuart Country Day. Her term in Princeton, the longest of her ministry, lasted from 1969 until 1995, when she moved to Kenwood Convent, the Society's retirement center in Albany.

After retiring from full-time classroom work in 1992, she tutored students in various topics.

She enjoyed teaching all levels, from young children to adults. In Princeton she prepared children for confirmation and taught Scripture to adults. After moving to Kenwood, she continued to lead Scripture study groups for her sisters. She was a lifetime learner whose wide-ranging interests included drama, history, music, and sports. Her pastime pursuits included swimming and playing bridge.

A vigil was held at Kenwood Convent on April 29. A funeral Mass was celebrated at Kenwood on April 30 followed by burial in the Kenwood Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4389 West Pine Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo. 63108.

Douglas B. Stevens

Douglas Barton Stevens, M.D., 90, of Hopewell Township, died April 24 at the University Medical Center at Princeton where he was a member of the honorary staff.

Born in Cortland, NY, he graduated from Hamilton College in 1939 and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1943. His medical school class, scheduled to finish in June of that year, was accelerated because of the wartime need for doctors. They received their degrees in March and most of the males went immediately into military service.

Dr. Stevens joined the U.S. Navy and in 1944 served as a medical officer aboard a ship that participated in the Normandy invasion. On D-Day and for many days following, Dr. Stevens' ship delivered troops and materiel and evacuated casualties. He liked to recall that they "lost" only two of those several hundred wounded.

At war's end he returned to Columbia and New York Presbyterian Hospital for surgical training, and in 1950 was named Chief Resident in General Surgery. In 1951 he joined the Princeton Medical Group and the staff of Princeton Hospital and remained with them both for 40 years. After retiring from the operating room he continued to work part-time as a surgical consultant at North Princeton Developmental Center until the age of 82.

He was an active and intellectually curious man. He took pride in having been an instrument rated airplane pilot, and the hobbies he pursued at times during his long life included sports cars, motorcycles, scuba diving, dog training, hunting, gardening, painting, and handcrafts. Among the instruments in the surgical department at the Medical Center is the Stevens pediatric retractor, which he made because he couldn't find a manufactured one.

His greatest love was fishing. He belonged to the American Littoral Society and Henryville Flyfishers. He was also a member of the Nassau Club and several professional organizations.

His oldest daughter, Pamela, died in February. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, the former Joan Pettitt Fortune; three children from his marriage to the late Mary-Louise Engebretson, Douglas Jr. of Dallas, Pa., Peter of Spokane Valley, Wash., and Meridith of Princeton; three stepchildren, Lauretta, Charles, and Madeleine Fortune; and eight grandchildren.

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