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Bobbi Ecker-Blatchford, icon of the floral industry, dies at age 85

Barbara (Bobbi) Ann Ecker-Blatchford, 85, died at her home on Paw-Paw Lake near Watervliet, MI, Feb 3.

Ms. Ecker-Blatchford devoted 60-plus years of her life to the floral industry, establishing innovative floral techniques and concepts, studying trends and acting as a mentor to many, according to a news release.

“Mom’s passing was quick and she was ‘being Bobbi’ right up until the moment she passed,” her daughter Cyndi Ecker Campbell told The Produce News. “In a way, that part couldn’t have been scripted better. Mom’s reach in this world was truly amazing. As such, we are looking forward to finding the right way to thank all of you and honor her memory in the industry she devoted her life to.”

Ms. Ecker-Blatchford was born Aug. 24, 1931 to William and Eleanor Brunstein. Her career as a florist began with her marriage to Ted Ecker, a pilot, who literally flew into her life as he landed his yellow, single-engine aircraft in a field near her grandparents’ home for a date with a local girl. He returned the next day with a bouquet of white orchids from his family’s greenhouse — Ecker’s Flowers & Greenhouses in Waverly, IA. Bobbi and Ted married on Dec. 28, 1947 and she began working in the family business and became a skilled floral designer.

BOBBI-ECKER-BLATCHFORD Her achievements in the floral industry included 30 years in retail at Ecker’s Flowers. She started her own marketing and promotions company in Chicago focusing on the floral industry, FloraPros, she was the director of franchisee training for Flowerama of America, she was also a sought-after floral designer, commentator and motivational speaker throughout the United States, and a floral consultant to manufacturers, growers and distributors in the U.S., Canada and South America, including the city of Chicago, Macy’s and FernTrust Inc., a co-op of 13 family farms in Seville, FL. Her creation and marketing of FernTrust’s Fabulous Foliage bouquets helped streamline the work of floral designers and made retailers around the world more aware and appreciative of foliage grown on American farms.

“Bobbi lit up the room when she walked in and she connected with people in a way that few can,” said Jana Register, FernTrust’s director of sales and marketing, in a news release. “I was always amazed by her ability to remember even the smallest details of a person’s life.”

Ms. Ecker-Blatchford was recognized and honored by many industry groups and was a member of the American Academy of Floriculture, the American Institute of Floral Designers and the Professional Floral Communicators-International. She was the recipient of the Fellow of AIFD designation, the AIFD Award of Distinguished Service to the Floral Industry, the Professional Floral Communicators International Tommy Bright Award for excellence in floral communication, and was given Hall of Fame status by the AIFD North Central Regional Chapter and the Michigan and Nebraska Floral Associations. In 2010, at the International Floriculture Show in Miami, the breeding company Preesman honored her with a rose named “High & Icon Bobbi Ecker,” and in 2012, the AIFD North Central Chapter created the Bobbi Cup design competition held annually at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show in her honor.

As a program presenter, she impressed audiences with her enthusiasm, marketing knowledge and design expertise. She was famous for her stylish attire, especially her hats and turbans and she always appeared with a flower decorating her turban, or wore one behind her ear, on her shoulder, or at her waist.

“Bobbi meant the world to everyone she came in contact with,” said Rodney P. Crittenden, chief executive officer and executive vice president at the Michigan Floral Association, in a news release. “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.”

Ms. Ecker-Blatchford married her second husband, Josiah (Joe) Blatchford, in Chicago on July 28, 1978 and they were together until his death on Nov. 11, 2015. She is survived by her daughter Cindy Ecker, who runs Ecker’s Flowers in Waverly, IA, and her son Bruce Ecker, an account manager at Smithers Oasis/Floralife.

“Mom got up every morning with the goal of making other people’s lives better,” Cindy Ecker told The Produce News. “She believed in the power of flowers to help, heal and inspire hope. As we all move forward, we hope that everyone picks up the mantle and carries on her vision of happiness through flowers. Find a hat, decorate it, and wear it proudly as you do your magic to bring people happiness through flowers. As Mom would say when she would call us way too early in the morning, ‘Good things are happening!’ ”