Earl may be gone, but he's not forgotten. L. 'Earl of Rochester' and L. 'Earl's Red,' two of Earl's seedlings were named to honor him. Earl loved lilies, and at his death in 1979, had been growing them for more than 35 years. Through his hybridizing program, Earl wanted to increase vigor and variety in garden lilium. His first love was trumpets and Aurelians and he was always aiming to improve those available, especially pinks. For most of those 35 years, Earl gardened on his city lot about 50' by 100'. In 1966, he moved some of his lilies to a shared plot in the country and gained more, much needed space. Earl's lilies came to be consistent award winners at both regional North Star Lily Society and North American Lily Society shows.
His first source of seed was the North American Lily Society's seed exchange. He enjoyed contact with others with an interest in lilies and would exchange pollen, bulbils, stem bulblets and seeds. As his collection grew, so did the amount of seeds he sent back to the NALS seed exchange. One lily that he hybridized in the 1960's gained very special recognition and that was L. 'Earl of Rochester.'
Originally Earl didn't think much of his clear yellow Asiatic lily (his focus on traits was running in a different direction) but fortunately, others did. In 1971, Merv Eisel registered the seedling with the Royal Horticultural Society and named it L.'Earl of Rochester.' In 1972, it became the first offering of Julius Wadekampers fledgling Borbeleta Gardens. That same year, before a tie-breaking vote, it almost won the Isabella Preston award for NALS best in show. Hugh Cocker entered it again at the 1974 NALS show in Chaska, MN where "The Earl" as it became affectionately known, was awarded the Certificate of Commendation. In 1978, at the NALS show in Mansfield, Ohio, Hugh entered it again and the 'Earl of Rochester' was awarded the Award of Merit by a panel of judges including Jan de Graff, founder and owner of the Oregon Bulb Farms.
Over the years, Earl's work with Asiatics was aimed at better yellows, oranges and reds. After awhile, he expanded into bi-colors and pastels. L. 'Phyllis T' and L. 'Honey Creme' are a couple of his registered seedlings. Many hundreds of others were never named or registered. Earl was overwhelmed with the beauty of Orientals and to keep a supply of these in his garden, he grew his own seedlings yearly. In those days Orientals were more of a challenge to acquire in Minnesota and Earl made sure he always had a constant supply.
Earl was a charter member of the North Star Lily Society and its first president. He was active in the direction and growth of the society for many years and was a mentor to those who were new to the world of lilium and would share his vast knowledge with them. The North Star Lily Society designed an important, on-going service award that carries the names of its first two recipients, the Koehler-Tesca Award.
Earl formed a fast friendship with Hugh and Ruth Cocker and when he passed away in 1979, he left his lilies and a wealth of information with Hugh and Ruth Cocker.