Family and friends of Arlene Louise Sorensen, AAF, 87, gathered yesterday in Lincoln, Nebraska, to honor the life of a woman who devoted her life to those she loved — and to cultivating a strong, connected floral industry.
Born in Lincoln in 1932, Sorensen, the first woman to serve as president of the Wholesale Florist and Florist Supplier Association, co-founded Lincoln Wholesale Florists in 1954 after attending the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She retired in 2007, after 53 years in business.
During her long, distinguished career, Sorensen was a bright light, patient mentor and devoted friend and business partner to many in the industry.
J Schwanke, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, founder of uBloom.com, called Sorensen the “original first lady of the flower industry” and a visionary whose “no-nonsense approach” elevated the skills of many.
“Florists locally, statewide, regionally, nationally and internationally benefited from her savvy and floral industry expertise,” Schwanke said. “She was a respected leader, successful wholesale florist, flower education advocate and a loyal friend.”
Among her many roles within the industry, she served on the Society of American Florists’ board of directors and chaired its government relations committee. She was president of the Nebraska Florists Society, and in addition to serving as WF&FSA’s president also volunteered on the organization’s board. Sorensen played an active role in the National Promoflor Council, an effort to encourage more nationwide consumption of floral products.
Bradley Beck, AAF, PFCI, of DESIGN MASTER color tool, inc. called Sorensen a leader “who always had a smile and was willing to make a difference.”
“Arlene was active in her community, respected by her peers and beloved by her flower family,” he said. “She will be remembered as a compassionate and genuine servant who helped by encouraging others to be their best.”
During her lifetime, Sorensen received many honors and awards, including SAF’s Paul Ecke Jr. Award, which the group presented to her in 2006. The award honors exemplary devotion to the floral profession, industry and community.
Drew Gruenburg, SAF’s chief operating officer, fondly recalled his time working with Sorensen on industry issues — in particular, he said, he’ll always be grateful for her service to and leadership of the government relations committee.
“Arlene was well connected and knew how government worked, whether at the local, state or national level,” he said. “She was pleasant, collaborative and caring, yet steely-eyed when she needed to be. Most of all she liked people and people liked her, a monumentally important part of success in any government relations endeavor.”
In addition to her industry contributions, Sorensen was dedicated to her local community. She served on the advisory council for the department of horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on the board of the Landscape Architects of Nebraska, as chairwoman of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, and as president of the Lincoln Independent Business Association.
She attended Grace Lutheran Church and was active in Lincoln Rotary Club #14, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and Star Venture and Community Congress.
Funeral services were held Tuesday, May 7, at the Roper and Sons South Lincoln Chapel in Lincoln.
Sorensen is survived by a number of family members, including her son Lee (Ruth) Sorensen; daughter-in-law Christina Sorensen; grandchildren Ashley (Chase) Frerichs and Jeremy Sorensen; sister Betty Maun, all of Lincoln. She was preceded in death by parents; husband, Harold H. Sorensen, and son Bert A. Sorensen.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.