A beloved floral industry member who overcame prejudice during World War II to serve his country and help build one of the longest-running family businesses ever to be honored by the Japanese American Museum in California died last month.
Eugene N. Yoshihara passed away on July 30, 2016.
His death came in the midst of tremendous joy — including the recent marriage of his grandson Tanner — and just days after he had reminded his family that “in lieu of a funeral service” or traditional obituary, he hoped people would send flowers and “spread smiles” in his memory, according to his son-in-law Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI.
“He was very humble,” said Wheat, who drew a portrait in honor of Gene, along with his wishes, and shared it via social media. “He didn’t want a big fuss.” Read more.
Yoshihara was born in Los Angeles County in 1935. His parents were poor vegetable farmers and immigrants.
During World War II when Yoshihara was just six years old, his family was relocated to Amache Camp, an internment camp in Granada, Colorado. After being released, the family worked on a Brighton, Colorado, farm, until they moved to Lafayette, Colorado, in 1949. There, they purchased a 2-acre lot and started a farm with a fruit and vegetable stand. The family’s business, Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center, remains in that same location today.
“Gene lived in tumultuous times,” according to the company’s Aug. 22 newsletter, which shared the news of Yoshihara’s passing. “There was strong prejudice against Japanese during his youth.”
Still, Yoshihara persevered. He graduated from Lafayette High School and attended Colorado State University before leaving early to join the U.S. Navy. After his military service, Yoshihara returned to Lafayette and the family farm.
As a young man, Yoshihara learned everything he could about the greenhouse business, studying plants, growing and cultivation. He built high tech greenhouses and served on the Colorado Carnation Growing Board, Centralized Grading, where he shipped carnations across the country. He also served on the DWF board of directors until his death this summer.
Within the floral industry, Yoshihara mentored countless growers and devoted himself to larger issues. He served on the Society of American Florists American Floral Marketing Council from 1979 to 1982, where he helped create marketing materials to support retail florists across the country. He also served on the SAF Growers Council for three years and was the chairman for the association’s 1981 convention in Denver. Yoshihara and his wife, Evelyn, consistently and proudly supported both SAFPAC, the industry’s political action committee, and the American Floral Endowment. He was a member of the American Academy of Floriculture.
In 2002, both Gene and Evelyn were inducted into the Colorado Floriculture Hall of Fame, an honor that recognized their profound contributions to the industry and their community for nearly 70 years. The family’s business has also been honored at the Japanese American Museum in California.
In Lafayette, Yoshihara was a true community leader. He volunteered with the Lion’s Club and was elected to the Lafayette City Council. In addition, he was a founding member of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of the directors of the First National Bank of Lafayette, a role that allowed him to help many local business owners.
According to the family, “Gene’s request was to be remembered by sending flowers to someone you love, in lieu of a funeral service. He wanted to spread a smile.”
His wishes are being honored by his family, including his wife, Evelyn; children Lori Wheat, AAF, (Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI), Sandi Sniff, AAF, AIFD, CPF, and Colin Yoshihara (Adrienne Peck); and the “true joys of his life”— his five grandchildren Tanner Wheat (Kayla Chalk); Leilani and Jackson Sniff; and Isla and Keller Yoshihara.
Read more about Yoshihara’s singular life.