Wallace Heuser, recognized internationally as an authority on tree fruit, rootstocks and orchard systems, has died. Heuser, 90, died Feb. 5 in Lawrence, Michigan.

For nearly three decades, Heuser was president of Hilltop Orchards and Nurseries, a multifaceted horticultural company with orchards, a packing house and nursery producing over a million fruit trees each year. He led the testing, development and release of several key apple varieties, including Redchief Red Delicious, Paulared, Jonnee and Macspur.

Later, as president of Summit Sales and International Plant Management, Heuser helped to introduce 40 new varieties to the industry, with another 100 in development.

Wally Heuser (Courtesy Heuser family)

Heuser was a leader in the introduction of dwarfing fruit tree rootstocks into the U.S. in the 1950s and was founder and first president of the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association, now known as the International Fruit Tree Association.

He earned numerous awards and accolades during his career from industry organizations, including the Michigan State University Distinguished Service Award for Agriculture, the Michigan Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award, and the outstanding Service Award from IFTA, as well as that organization’s first Hall of Fame Award.

Heuser was born Jan. 12, 1929 in Hartford, Michigan, to Marjorie and Eugene Heuser. He earned a bachelor’s degree in pomology from Michigan State University in 1950, graduating cum laude, the same year he married Laura Lee Riegel. Riegel preceded him in death.

Heuser is survived by five children; Gary, Wanda, Stephen, Jeffrey and Roy, as well as nine grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will take place Feb. 16 at 11 a.m., Hartford United Methodist Church in Hartford, Michigan. The family asks that memorials be made to the church or to the International Fruit Tree Association at ifruittree.org.