ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) – George “Doc” Abraham, a wisecracking gardening guru who teamed up with his wife, Katy, on one of the longest-running shows on American radio with the same hosts, has died at age 89.

The couple wrapped up the last edition of “The Green Thumb” on Dec. 14, 2002, with a trademark signoff they’d been using for a half-century.

“Gotta grow now!” Abraham said. “And don’t forget to be neighborly,” his wife piped in.

Abraham died Thursday night at a hospital in Canandaigua of complications from congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Leanna.

“He had a great zest for life,” she said. “He was very curious, very well-read, and it made him a good teacher. When he discovered something, he wanted to tell other people about it.”

The half-hour, call-in show first went on the air in 1952, offering practical advice on flowers, fruit bugs and lawn care mixed in with his down-home humor and her poetry recitations. The couple’s country-twang chemistry – Katy’s sweet nature a foil to Doc’s gregariousness – drew a loyal following on Rochester’s WHAM radio station.

“She’s homegrown, corn-fed and sugar-cured. That’s why I married her,” Abraham joked in an interview with The Associated Press in December 2002.

Born in Wayland in rural western New York, the teenage sweethearts both studied horticulture and journalism at Cornell University. He saw action in North Africa while she worked at a munitions plant in Ithaca, and they tied the knot during his 36-hour Army leave in 1942.

After World War II, the couple launched a greenhouse business and a syndicated gardening column that, during its heyday, reached 5 million readers in 130 newspapers around the country.

Their column still showed up in a few dozen small-town newspapers and magazines and many of their 16 gardening books, notably “The Green Thumb Garden Handbook,” remain in print. Abraham had just finished an autobiography, “A Bathtub Built for Two,” that will be published this summer, his daughter said.

Old-age ailments persuaded the pair to end their radio show, but they continued to bring their expertise into schools in and around their home in Naples in the Finger Lakes region.

“It seems silly – we’re just a couple of country boobs but, no matter where we go, they mob us,” Abraham said in 2002.

Along with his wife and daughter, Abraham is survived by a son, Darryl.


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