BOISE — It’s been 13 years since Steve Love was involved in potato research and development but his effect has not been forgotten.
During last month’s Potato Association of America banquet in Boise, Love, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center, was recognized with the PAA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership for his work in potato research.
These days Love is Idaho’s consumer horticulturist specialist helping develop the native plant program at the Aberdeen center, but for 20 years — from 1985 to 2005 — he led the UI’s potato variety development program at Aberdeen.
During that time he also helped develop the Tri-State Variety Development program with potato researchers from Oregon State University and Washington State University.
Love and the close-knit team of researchers in the Tri-State program were responsible for 12 new varieties, including the Ranger Russet, currently the third most widely grown potato variety in the United States.
Love said that receiving the PAA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership was a great honor.
“I’m not sure that I could have received any thing that could have been a greater honor,” he said. “Because of the work I put into that program (Tri-State) and because of the very positive feelings for the PAA and the many friendships that I have there.”
Love said that he had not attended a PAA meeting since leaving the potato program 13 years ago but that he really enjoyed seeing many of his friends and associates.
“That is the one thing I really missed was the camaraderie and the associations that I had with the PAA and the people that are a part of that group both inside and outside the organization,” Love said of his 13-year interlude between PAA meetings.
Though he missed the relationships and associations he forged during the two decades working in potato research Love said that he is enjoying his current work.
“I really, really like what I’m doing now,” he said. “In fact as a profession, it’s probably the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in my career.”
Two years ago in August, 2016, while hiking through the Frank Church Wilderness area searching for native plant specimens, Love had a massive heart attack. It took 12 hours to get him medically evacuated.
“Just started to hike in to Big Baldy Ridge to do some collecting with three other guys and got a few miles into the trail and crashed and burned,” he said describing the near-fatal experience.
He had suffered a blockage of the anterior interventricular branch of the left coronary artery, commonly called the “widow maker.”
“It did a lot of damage to me mostly because there was too much time without blood before they could get me out,” he said.
Today, he has a left ventricle-assisted device and with a shoulder strap that carries a portable pump.
“You have the device around your heart,” Love said, “the right side of my heart still functions to some degree. The left side doesn’t. The pump does all the work on the left side of the heart.
It’s been a long road to recovery and though he is limited in his mobility he’s returned to searching for wildflower specimens.
This past spring he spent three days in the Owyhees with researchers from Utah State University and Brigham Young University-Idaho.
“This was really the first extensive trip I made since I had my heart attack. I was feeling good enough to go and could manage all the things,” he said.
“Life is good,” Love said in concluding his recovery story.