Floral industry members around the country — and, really, the world — are saying farewell to Bobbi Ecker-Blatchford, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, the celebrated designer and mentor extraordinaire who died unexpectedly last week.
“Bobbi meant the world to everyone she came in contact with,” said Rodney P. Crittenden, CEO and executive vice president of the Michigan Floral Association. “I have been blessed to have had her part of my life for over 30 years. I will miss our talks on flowers, marketing, politics, people, children, love and life. She was truly a special lady.”
That sentiment — that Ecker-Blatchford was one in a million — has been shared around social media this week, as industry members post fond recollections and stories about their interactions with the talented and forward-thinking designer.
Ecker-Blatchford dedicated her life to the floral industry. She worked in her family’s floral and greenhouse operation in Waverly, Iowa. In Chicago, Illinois, she later started her own company, The Flora Pros. Over the course of her 60-plus-year career, she became a noted speaker, commentator, award-winning floral designer and sought after consultant to manufacturers, growers and distributors in the U.S., Canada and South America. She was recognized and honored by many, many industry groups, including the American Institute of Floral Designers, International Floral Expo and the Michigan Floral Association, which inducted her into its prestigious Hall of Fame in 2012. The Society of American Florists recognized her with its 1997 Tommy Bright Award. In 2010, a rose was named in her honor.
As a designer and consultant, Ecker-Blatchford constantly looked for new ways to improve florists’ lives and to bring new products and ideas to consumers. For 15 years, she worked with FernTrust, a co-op made up of 13 family farms, in Seville, Florida. One of her signature contributions include the development of the company’s Fabulous Foliage bouquet lines, a series of pre-bunched foliage that helped streamline the work of floral designers while introducing consumers to a wider variety of foliage. That line remains popular for FernTrust — and in a year where ‘Greenery’ is the Pantone Color of the Year and high-end weddings are featuring lush, foliage-only bouquets — has helped cement Ecker-Blatchford’s as a true visionary.
Still, for her business savvy and prodigious creative gifts, most industry members are remembering her light-filled spirit and the true joy she took in people, flowers and life.
“Bobbi lit up the room when she walked in and she connected with people in way that few can,” said Jana Register, FernTrust’s director of sales and marketing, who fondly recalled receiving personalized, very funny letters from Ecker-Blatchford, notes that were often complemented by an artistic sketch. “I was always amazed by her ability to remember even the smallest details of a person’s life.”
J M.H. Schwanke, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, who grew up in the industry and knew Ecker-Blatchford as a young child, said he’s certain she would want people to remember shared happy moments, and to celebrate rather than mourn.
“When I was a very young kid, maybe six or seven, she told me three things,” Schwanke said. “First, she said, ‘This is the best business in the world, because we get to turn people’s emotions into flowers.’ The second thing was, ‘You can be the very best at anything, as long as you put your mind to it.’ And the third was, ‘I’ll always be there for you.’”
The most remarkable thing about Ecker-Blatchford, Schwanke said, was that she gave that kind of wholehearted encouragement to everyone she met.
“Every single person she touched was better for it,” he explained. “When you were with Bobbi, you felt like the most important person in her world.”
A number of memorial and tributes are being planned to honor Ecker-Blatchford’s life and contributions to the industry.
A celebration of her life will take place February 18, 2017, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Waverly Area Veterans Post.
An upcoming North Central Chapter AIFD newsletter will honor her with a special section — as a tribute to Ecker-Blatchford’s love of hats and great style, florists are encouraged to wear a hat on Valentine’s Day and send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Michigan Floral Association will hold a Celebration of Life on March 5, 2017 at 8:15 during the 2017 Great Lakes Floral Expo. Before she died Ecker-Blatchford had been planning a “Coffee Chat with Bobbi” for the session time that morning — she already had procured light-up sunglasses to hand out to the audience because, in her view, the future was always bright and filled with potential, Crittenden said, adding that the celebration that morning will honor that spirit.
Ecker-Blatchford is survived by her daughter, Cyndi, and Cyndi’s husband, Lyman Campbell; and her son, Bruce, and his wife, Kim Folkers. Her husband, Joe Blatchford, died in 2015.