In case you forgot, Valentine’s Day is coming up. Real soon. And here’s my Valentine’s Day gift to everyone: An old column about a flower delivery guy (with some updates at the end) …
Len Conway doesn’t deliver just flowers. He delivers love.
“You better check with my wife on that,” he said with a smile.
I spent Friday with Len, delivering flowers on Valentine’s Day, which is to flower deliverers what Christmas Eve is too reindeer and Super Bowl Sunday is to pizza-delivery drivers.
Len, 66, a retired appliance repairman, works for Quakertown Flowers, a small florist shop that takes a lot of pride in what they do. Maryann Glazier is the owner, and Valentine’s Day finds her hip deep in roses, carnations, daisies and baby’s breath.
“I haven’t been home since 7:30 yesterday morning,” Maryann said as she, Gloria and Cheryl keep their assembly line of colorful arrangements moving along. “I did spend an hour last night lying down.”
Her husband, Joe, who works for the Navy as a computer specialist, is there to help, along with their son, Joe Jr., and a few friends. Although Maryann says she runs a small shop, she’ll sell more than 750 roses and will fill more than 100 orders today.
But the real action is out on the road, and it’s time for Len to load up and deliver another van full of love … I mean flowers.
“I once had a customer who ordered a dozen roses and the woman refused to accept them,” Len said with a chuckle.
“That’s from my son,” Ernna said proudly as she slips a dollar into Len’s hand after he delivers a nice basket of flowers. “He lives in Florida and never forgets me. He’ll call later.”
Amazingly, Ernna is one of the very few flower receivers who tip Len. I’m shocked, but Len accepts it with a shrug.
Next stop is a nursing home.
“You’d think there would be more deliveries to nursing homes, but there’s not,” Len said. “They’re like warehouses ’til the people die. It’s very sad.”
We get a lot of “oohs” and “aah” as we enter with two arrangements, one roses, the other carnations. “That’s the best one today,” someone says of the roses, wishing they were for her.
As the day wears on, I learn more and more about Len, who’s more of a romantic than he’d ever admit. He and Mildren have been married 43 years (“44 in July”) and he’ll give her a planter with four plants and some decorative flowers after the last of his 50 or so deliveries.
“What’s the secret to being happily married for 43 years?” I ask.
Len thinks for a few seconds. “It’s just a case of people being willing to give a little instead of always talking. As long as you can talk to each other, most things can be straightened out.”
Len has developed a greater appreciation for Valentine’s Day since he started delivering flowers five years ago. “I’d get my wife something and that was that,” he said. “Now, I see all these people and the sense of happiness they get from flowers and … well, it’s a lot better than going to someone’s house to fix their washing machine.”
Sitting on the porch in front of our next stop is a large, brown dog. Len, who was bitten a couple of weeks ago, eyes the dog suspiciously. “I was at this house and there were three little dogs,” he said of the biting incident. “They ran up and one got behind me and bit me.”
That was the 12th time he’s been bitten, although most occurred when he was repairing appliances. Who knew this was such a dangerous profession?
“I’ll put him inside,” Lisa said, and the big, brown dog turned out to be a teddy bear who craves affection.
“I was on the phone with my friend,” Lisa said, full of excitement, as she signs for the flowers. “I said ‘Ooh, the florist is here,’ and my friend said she’d stay on the line so I could tell her what I got.”
Our next delivery is in a mobile house development to Josephine, an older woman who has trouble getting around. “It’s my birthday today too,” she tells us. “I’ve been waiting for you all day!”
Back the flower shop, Maryann is wrapping up a long, long two days.
“What are you going to do tonight to celebrate Valentine’s Day?” I ask.
“Joe, are you getting Maryanne flowers?”
They look at each other, laugh, and in union shout: “No!”
“I want airline tickets,” Maryanne said.
As you’re reading this, Maryann and Joe are on the way to Florida and Key West for a well-deserved vacation.
This ran on February 17, 1997 … 22 Valentine’s Days ago. My 5th with Susan.
I did a little digging, and … Len passed away about 8 years after this column came out. Rest in peace Len, and happy Valentine’s Day. The Quakertown Flower Shop closed several years ago. According to the Intelligencer (the newspaper where my column first appeared): “The biggest reason for her going out of business has been the addition of flower shops in area supermarkets.” Interesting, and sad. And darn, I was gonna get Susan flowers at Trader Joe’s, but now that just doesn’t seem right. Double darn, the florist shop near our house just closed. It was a craft brewery, for about a week. And then it too closed. Turns out the owner has been accused of sexually harassing several women. Sorry to put a damper on all the romance … but it is what it is. Happy Valentine’s Day.