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Dr. David Ligon Armstrong: Armstrong Nurseries innovator

Armstrong Nurseries innovator, psychiatrist, traveler, Navy veteran

California native David Ligon Armstrong died July 4 at Oak Tree Lodge in Pomona.

“Full of intelligence and humor, he was a testament that our hopes and dreams are achievable when we believe and commit ourselves to action,” his family shared.

Born at home May 5, 1927 in Ontario, he was the second son of Awdry and Ruth Armstrong. He and his older brother John and younger sister Janetha grew up playing in the then abundant  orange groves of Ontario and attended Edison Elementary School.

He used to tell the story of making up creative newspapers to sell to the neighbors and at Halloween putting pins in their doorbells. As a boy he helped package plants in containers for his family’s nursery, Armstrong Nursery of Ontario.

He was a modest young man, hardworking, sensitive and happy, with a love for his grandmother’s bottled peaches and adventure books.

He attended the private Norton School in Claremont, where he related his favorite activity was building the rock walls with the other students.

As he grew older he attended Ontario’s Chaffey High School and then went on to graduate at age 17 as the valedictorian from Webb School for boys in Claremont. He really enjoyed Webb, especially his biology teacher Raymond M. Alf, whom he said used to hang from a ceiling pipe by one arm as he taught. A carved wood picture he made while he was a student at Webb still hangs in the school’s library.

He started college at Caltech at age 17, but stopped to join the Navy during World War II, where he was trained as an Electronics Technician’s Mate on Treasure Island, near San Francisco.

After his navy service he finished his undergraduate studies at University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1949 with a degree in genetics. While he was earning a PhD at the University of California, Davis, he was also courting longtime family friend Mary Scott Meredith of Claremont, who was by then a “Cal” girl.

They were married March 30, 1953 in a candlelight ceremony in the chapel at Webb School, with a reception at Padua Hills Theater. They settled in their first home on Yale Street in Ontario, as David joined the family business, internationally known Armstrong Nurseries, which was founded by his Canadian immigrant grandfather JS Armstrong around 1890. Mr. Armstrong became the company’s head of research and developed many new varieties of roses and peach trees.

While he and Mary were raising a family of two girls and one boy in Upland in San Antonio Heights, Mr. Armstrong was an active member of the Ontario Rotary Club, continued his love of politics as the president of the Young Republicans of San Bernardino County, experienced Indian Guides with his son Paul and took the family on adventurous camping trips to national parks across the county and even Alaska.

He always encouraged his children to look over the next hill and definitely developed their desire to travel and explore new cultures.

In 1968 he decided to leave the family business and follow his longtime dream of becoming a medical doctor.

“This was a difficult undertaking for a man 41 years old, but he persevered, showing us nothing was impossible if you give it all your effort,” his family shared.

The family of five moved from Upland to Omaha, Nebraska, where he attended Creighton Medical School. The family dinner table was filled with conversations about the latest surgery he had been involved with or learning about some new medical discovery he had heard about.

During medical school he decided to become a psychiatrist. In 1972 he once again moved the family, this time to Orange County, where he had a psychiatric residency associated with the University of California, Irvine. After his residency he began work at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, where he was a much beloved doctor, helping many for the rest of his career.

Before his beloved wife Mary died from lung cancer in 1997 they traveled extensively, exploring England, Wales, Africa, Central and South America together, climbing up Machu Picchu in Peru and learning to ski in Colorado.

Dr. Armstrong spent the last 12 years of his medical career serving as chief of staff at Metropolitan, reluctantly retiring on July 4, 2005 at age 78.

During retirement he continued to travel around the world, particularly enjoying the silk trail across China and Uzbekistan, soon adding his close friend Maggie Vinnedge to his trips. He and Ms. Vinnedge explored Iran, Japan, China, Italy, Cambodia and other exciting lands of adventure.

In 2009 he moved into the lovely, all-inclusive retirement community Mt. San Antonio Gardens. He was a second-generation resident since his parents and other family members had lived there for many years.

While at the Gardens he continued to see longtime friends and go out to dinner and the theater with his dear friend Ms. Vinnedge.

Dr. Armstrong was preceded in death by his parents, Awdry and Ruth Armstrong; older brother John Armstrong; and his loving wife of 43 years, Mary.

He has a large and loving family who survive him. They will greatly miss his humor and insight. These include his sister Janetha Corey (Gene) of Claremont; children Meredith Richey (Michael) of Perry, Kansas;  Paul Armstrong (Cindy) of San Juan Capistrano; Adelaide Butler (Bob) of Anaheim; eight grandchildren, Robbie (Heidi), Scott (Chelsea) and Preston (Jordana) Richey, Charlotte Nations (Joseph), Kirstin, Charlotte and Maxwell Armstrong, and Dylan Butler; 10 great grandchildren, Lizzy, Austin, Reagan, Paige, Macy and Chloe Richey; Cambria and Jonas Nations; and Layla and Mariah Richey.

“The family is grateful for those who served our father at Mt. San Antonio Gardens and Oak Tree Lodge with love and caring,” they said.

A viewing will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. today, Friday, July 12 at Todd Memorial Chapel, 570 N. Garey Ave., Pomona.

A graveside memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, July 13 at Oak Park Cemetery, 410 Sycamore Ave., Claremont.