A woman credited with helping to lay the foundation for an independent Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association died last month after a two-year battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Sue Wolfe passed away in Dallas on April 3. Wolfe, a former executive director of WF&FSA, was “bright and capable, and she had so much energy and personality,” said Rob Shibata, AAF, president of Mt. Eden Floral Company. “She was really foundational in creating the modern WF&FSA.”
As the sole WF&FSA employee when the organization moved from under the umbrella of the Society of American Florists to a stand-alone entity in the early 1970s, Wolfe worked closely with Shibata’s father, Yoshimi, then the group’s president. (She also served for a period as SAF’s officer manager.)
“At the time, WF&FSA was fairly small and composed mostly of wholesalers in the Northeast,” explained Shibata, a former WF&FA president himself. “They didn’t have any money and they only had one staff person, Sue. So, one of the first thing they did was my dad, Sue, and some of the other board members traveled around the country together, recruiting members.”
The initiative was successful: Wolfe helped grow WF&FSA membership significantly during her tenure, and Shibata credited her passion and personality with much of the group’s early success.
“She was very outgoing, super friendly and very bright,” he said. “She really took WF&FSA’s mission to heart.”
Wolfe also played crucial roles in establishing the group’s bylaws, trade show, Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award and its Young Executives program for upcoming industry leaders, among many other contributions. Her ongoing goal? To build a durable, mission-focused organization, Shibata said. “She really worked tirelessly to fulfill this vision of having something that was focused and dedicated on the wholesale channel,” he said.
Wolfe, the widow of WF&FSA Past President George Edward Wolfe Jr., retired from the organization in 1973. A celebration of life took place May 1 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Dallas.
Wolfe is survived by her daughter, Susan (Patrick) Tyrrell and grandchildren Meredith Sittmann, Hunter and Austin Tyrrell; and son John Allen Haynes Jr.; and Wolfe family members George (Karen) Wolfe III, Thomas Wolfe, James (Sharon) Wolfe, nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.