By Kupluthai Pungkanon
The Sunday Nation
He was born in Bangkok on December 4, 1922 and was married to Kallaya Sagarik. They have four children. Professor Rapee’s title was bestowed by the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1973.
He served the monarch closely not only as the rector of Kasetsart University but also as the member of His Majesty’s band, Aor Sor Friday. He was an honorary recipient of the “Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand”, “Knight Grand Cross (first class) of The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant” and “The Dushdi Mala”.
He was Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives in 1979 and1980, and the president of the Arsom Silp Institute of the Arts.
As a scholar and intellectual, Professor Rapee was passionate about nature and had strong principles about the value of love and respect in nature and humankind. During his early years of teaching in Chiang Mai, at Maejo Agricultural Institute (now Maejo University), he studied various fields of rice cultivation and agricultural research, which led to discoveries in the development of hybrid flowers, especially orchids. He became known as the “Father of Thai Orchids” and an expert of orchids worldwide.
Reflecting on the orchid, Pecteilis sagarikii Seident, which was named after him, he once said: “I planted my first tree on this land when I was young, and it is still alive. I watered it, fertilised it; it blooms beautifully and has been appreciated by all people. These flowers are not like the ones you see every day, which blossom and then wither away. These flowers will never die but will be passed on to future generations. So I name these flowers ‘love in humankind’.”
Often calling himself “Khun Por” (“father”), Rapee was highly regarded and respected by society at large. As he was always critically minded and virtuous, when he gave political messages, people listened and appreciated.
After his retirement, he was a guest lecturer and often worked with farmers upcountry.
He liked to write poetry and articles for various periodicals. In his free time, he loved to play the violin and the traditional Thai fiddle.
In the past year, Rapee suffered a stroke, Parkinson’s disease and pulmonary emphysema and had shown symptoms of dementia.
Rapee always lived up to his integrity and honesty. His great achievements towards the country will always be remembered.
His funeral schedule will be organised on Monday evening at Wat Phra Si Mahathat on Phahonyothin Road, Bang Khen district.