A passion for plants and nature grew a thriving career for Rebecca Jordi.
The Nassau County Extension and horticultural agent held fast to her role until her death from cancer Friday. She had recently announced plans to retire July 31. Jordi was 66 years old.
She began serving as an extension agent for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences on May 4, 2001. She was promoted to director Sept. 3, 2010.
Master Gardener Volunteer Karl Shaffer worked with Jordi for six years. He reflected on the legacy that she leaves behind.
“Becky was absolutely one of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever met,” he said. “She was super smart, extremely talented – particularly in her interactions with the public. She loved all things living, had an incredible recall and was an excellent instructor.”
He added, “She was working on completing her Ph.D. when her cancer came back with a vengeance. It was my great privilege to study and work under her direction as a Master Gardener volunteer. She was the finest boss I ever had. I miss her greatly.”
Recently retired Master Gardener Volunteer Bea Walker recalled how Jordi influenced others. Walker worked with her for 15 years.
“Part of Becky’s effectiveness was having the community be aware of the Extension’s services and programs that came under her program extension,” she said, adding that Jordi was engaging and approachable, and had the ability to communicate information in a way that community members could understand.
She also utilized master gardeners so that their efforts were recognized and supported.
“They loved her,” Walker said. “This is an emotional experience for all of the master gardeners because she was the program.”
Jordi enjoyed sharing her knowledge of plant life, gardening in natural habitats and entomology through a column published in the Record for many years.
“Garden Talk” featured letters from the community that sought Jordi’s advice for troubled plants and the identification of various species of insects, trees and plants. She often spoke at home and garden shows at Epcot, and did occasional TV appearances for local news broadcasts.
Administrative assistant Laura Laroche worked with Jordi for 16 years. She fondly recalled how Jordi’s face lit up during research projects.
“Her excitement with the discovery of new bugs and insects was always amazing,” Laroche said. “She was like a child discovering new things. She loved it.”
She has fond memories of working with Jordi, who shared her expertise wherever she could.
“She’s a great teacher,” Laroche said.
Interim County Extension Director Meg McAlpine recalled Jordi’s attributes.
“I had the honor and privilege of working beside Rebecca Jordi for the last 18.5 years,” she noted. “She was an amazing person and colleague. Besides her sense of humor, endless energy and creativity, she was an innovator and leader. She will be dearly missed by her colleagues, master gardener volunteers and the community.”
Nassau County Public Information Officer Sabrina Robertson issued a press release to note Jordi’s impact on the community.
“Becky initiated many projects including, but not limited to, the demonstration gardens at the James S. Page Governmental Complex and Yulee County Building, Landscape Matters classes, plant clinics, crash courses in gardening and much more.”
Jordi’s numerous awards include the Florida Association of Natural Resources Professionals-Mid Career Leadership Award; Florida Association of County Agricultural Agent Search for Excellence Team Award, National Finalist; National Finalist in Landscape Horticulture; Computerized Graphic Presentation Silver Award and Extension Professional Association Young Professional of the Year, according to her obituary.
One of her greatest achievements was the publication of her children’s book “Zoe’s Mission,” which was illustrated by local artist and Master Gardener Joanne Roach.
Jordi also included her grandchildren in the book’s plot according to her obituary, which is on page 7.