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There’s Something About This Man

Albert Behnke
Albert Behnke

Have you ever found a special photo that takes you back? Tonight, I found this photo of my grandfather, Albert Behnke. While I have many of him that I love and have shared before, this one, with his favorite blue plaid shirt that matched his eyes and that torn hat that he always wore, took my breath away! Looking closely, I see that grin and I know his eyes are twinkling. I bet he just told a joke.

Its been about 24 years since he passed away and I still miss him. How could that much time have gone by?  As a little girl, my parents divorced, so he became the main guy in my life.  I don’t think anyone could ever understand the relationship we had. We were always laughing and I know I got away with so much that others didn’t. He would have me weeding outside at his home in Burtonsville and would see what a awful job I was doing (on purpose) and send me in to my grandmother for housecleaning lessons. Ha! (That did not work out so well for me either since we would find many other things to do.) When I was older, we shared a love of…are you ready? Soap operas. We both loved As The World Turns.  At family get togethers, we would talk about that evil James Steinbeck or that mean, old John Dixon. My mother would look at us and wonder just who were we talking about.

When we would spend the weekend with him, there was no lazing in bed on a Saturday morning. We would hear this big deep voice coming up the stairs calling, “aufstehen.”  He could out-work just about anyone, even after he retired. He loved his family and enjoyed his nursery and friends. Later, his private gardens became his focus and he could always be found somewhere with a hoe for those pesky weeds or clippers so he could cut a big bouquet of flowers for his wife Rose.

I am still amazed at the many different sides he had.  I hear so many stories from others about what they remember most about him. Our customers remember a man who loved plants and nature and enjoyed sharing his knowledge with them. Some of the men who still work at Behnke’s remember him as a hard taskmaster. “You have two hands, use them” he would say. My uncles and cousins have still different memories.  But everyone had a great deal of respect for him.

There are so many other things that popped up in my mind tonight looking at this photo but I will just share two more. This man, my grandfather, always would tell me that I could do anything, be anything I wanted in life and to never let anyone stop me. And most importantly, he would tell us that without my grandmother, Rose, there would be no Behnke Nurseries. She was always the woman behind the man who would quietly make sure everything and everyone was happy with their day.

I hope you get out your old family photos and start looking through them. Pull one out and sit and remember, write down your thoughts so your children and grandchildren can meet that person that was so important in your life.

by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nice Post! I have a lot of history with Behnke’s as well as fond memories. When my father from Holland first came to the US in 1971 he was a sort of guest worker on a work exchange program. He worked at Behnke’s and I think he even lived in a room there. He eventually settled in the area. Every year as a kid, even after my father changed jobs, we went to the Christmas market at Behnke’s. We always got new Christmas ornaments there. My dad would also take us to the Burtonsville house and show me the amazing garden there that Mr Behnke took care of. My dad always spoke fondly of Mr Behnke. I wish I had more pictures of those days. Pictures of how Behnke’s nurseries looked back then. Even today when he comes from Maine to visit me in Maryland we take a trip to see Behnke’s. Take care!

  2. Hi! Glad you liked the post! I know your dad Jan and enjoy his stops to the nursery when he is in the area. Yes he did live in the apartment over top our houseplant house which is now offices.

    take care,

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