Last night we lost our beekeeping hero, Dale Large after a years-long battle with cancer.
For the first couple of years of his illness, you would not have known that Dale was ill. I thank the bees for motivating him to push every day. Even after his retirement, Dale still checked in to be sure that the bees were well cared for.
As early as last season, Dale made our bee run for us because they arrived earlier than we anticipated and I couldn't get to our grower in time to pick the bees up. One of the first beekeeping lessons that Dale taught me was that the bees don't always cooperate with your schedule.
It feels like yesterday that I met Dale. It was 2010.
I was painting with encaustic, a paint made with beeswax, tree resin and pigment and decided to "grow my own wax" for use in my art. After researching bees on the internet, I ordered a book and a hive and when my husband got home from work I announced that I was going to become a beekeeper.
He asked, "do you know what you're doing"? I said, "NO, but I'll be ok."
The next day my husband introduced me to Dale, a veteran beekeeper and an employee of David S. Brown Enterprises. Dale was kind and very patient with me. He asked me to follow him into his workshop and in a red wagon he rolled out a couple of hives with frames full of wax comb that had already been drawn by his bees, ready for filling on Chesterhaven Beach Farm.
When we set the hives in place, I explained that I was only interested in the wax. That's when the important lessons started. Creating a sustainable apiary required maintaining beeswax. The only time we take wax from the bees is when we recycle every other year, or when a hive dies.
That first season we did exceptionally well together. So well that someone decided to steal my bees. If you watch this clip on WBAL TV you'll see Dale, who was not at all interested in gaining publicity. Dale was camera shy but got past it for me. That's just the way he was.
Shortly after the piece aired, Dale heard from someone he worked with long ago who saw him on TV and it inspired him to reach out and say hello. Dale appreciated hearing from someone he knew so long ago.
I don't know if Dale knew how many people loved him.
Helping me with the bees was not part of Dale's job description
Despite a two hour travel-time from his home to the Eastern Shore, Dale made it his job to be with me in the bee yard for every single inspection for the first six years of this adventure. He never took money for his help. It meant so much to him as a veteran (50+ year) beekeeper to know that he was passing on what he knew to someone who would keep it going.
There were many trials and tribulations with getting our apiary up and running.
Raising bees on the Chesapeake Bay is very different than raising bees inland further north on the outskirts of Pennsylvania. Dale would often mention that he never researched more answers to more questions than after our time together in the apiary.
In our first Honey House, after several successful harvests, we were on our way out the door after a long day of harvesting honey to find thousands of HUNGRY bees attacking our "empties" outside of the front door in our business complex. It looked like "beemageden". Think Alfred Hitchcock "The Birds" only replace birds with bees.
I had no tools, no suit, no smoke. The only thing I had was a HEAP of trouble if I didn't figure out how to fix this situation.
Dale came to the rescue, long after his day was over. He showed up with smoke, suits and a trailer to take the hives away and store them until we needed them again.
Dale Large was among the kindest, most selfless, caring and loving humans I've known. I feel very fortunate that we spent the time that we have together. My heart goes out to his wife Brinda and son Bobby.
I picture Dale in heaven with his bees in a beautiful field filled with blooming flowers at peace and out of pain.
Dale, until we meet again, rest in peace.