BACK IN 1984, the Abbott & Cobb seed company of Trevose came out with a new strain of sweet corn that it insisted would change the way corn lovers thought of - and consumed - their favorite summertime vegetable.
Abbott & Cobb called it Summer Sweet, but now the company claims it has taken sweet corn to a new level with an even better and tastier strain to tickle the palate anew.
While Mabel Kester Abbott did not participate in product development, her leadership of Abbott & Cobb for some 25 years helped make the company successful enough to do the kind of research necessary to develop new products.
Mabel Abbott, born into a family that ran a funeral home in Kensington for generations, a judge for the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, a champion of women's rights, and a devoted hospital volunteer, died May 19. She was 89 and was living in the Southminster Retirement Community in Charlotte, N.C., but had lived most of her life in the Philadelphia area.
Her late husband, Arthur C. Abbott, who ran the seed company until his death in 1975, was a former president of the Philadelphia Rotary Club, Rotary district governor and member of the board of Rotary International. Mabel supported him in the role of a "Rotary Ann."
She took on the role of vice president of the seed company, which claims to be the largest independently owned vegetable-seed company in North America, after her husband's death.
She and her son, Arthur C. Abbott Jr., ran the company until she retired in 2000 and moved to Charlotte. Her son continues as head of the company.
"She was one of the sweetest, most generous ladies I have ever known," her son said. "She always had a smile for everybody."
Mabel was born in Philadelphia to Charles L. and Ethel W. Kester, who ran the Kester Funeral Home on East Allegheny Avenue in Kensington, serving generations of families from 1918 to the early '90s.
She graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls and Drexel University with a degree in home economics.
She was employed by the A&P company for a time and also was a substitute teacher in the Philadelphia School District.
She and her husband were married on Sept. 1, 1942, and they lived in Bustleton for many years.
Mabel was an active member of AAUW, an international organization that seeks to overcome educational and economic barriers to women, and Zonta International, an organization of executives and professionals that also seeks to help women achieve success and works for world peace.
She was a member of the board of the Penn Widows Home and the Drexel Alumni Association. She taught a Bible class for young women at the Bustleton Methodist Church.
Mabel was a judge in the City Gardens Contest of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society and volunteered for many years at the Frankford Hospital snack shop, Abington Memorial Hospital and Holy Redeemer Hospital in Huntingdon Valley.
Besides her son, she is survived by a daughter, Adelle A. Webb; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Services: Memorial service 11 a.m. Saturday at the Wayside Chapel in Whitemarsh Memorial Park, 1156 Horsham Road, Ambler.