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Welcoming an Old Friend

Christmas Eve at Behnke’s tends to be a little hectic in our Christmas Shop. There I was, helping a customer decide just what to get as a gift when someone said to me, “I think those folks over there know you.” I looked up, and I think maybe I screamed! LEO!! Oh my, it had been over 25 years since I saw this man.

Leo Bicknese was one of my ‘dads!’  Growing up as a girl without a father during a time when there were very few divorces, I can tell you I never felt it at all. From the time my mother moved us back to the nursery when I was only a year old, I had 5 very important male influences in my life. Leo was one of them along with Helmut Jaehnigen, Ira DeGourse and, of course, my grandfather, Albert Behnke and my Uncle Roland Behnke.  Our house at the nursery had a basement apartment where men from Germany and Holland who came to work for my grandparents lived. For a time Leo and Helmut both lived down there as did many others over the years. I was the lucky one.

Christmas Eve was Leo’s birthday and he and his family stopped in to say “hello.” I had lost track over the years, but knew that he retired to Arizona.  Apparently he is quite the bridge player there.  For those of you that never knew Leo, he was our Vice President and head grower for the garden center. He was responsible for growing our beautiful annuals, mums and poinsettias along with so much more.  As one of the officers of the nursery, Leo was an important part of the success of the nursery from the 1960’s on.

Leo and his poinsettia crop, back in the ’80’s

It was so nice seeing him again and finding out that at 80 plus years, he is still the same wonderful man he was when I was growing up.

Leo mentioned that he was not sure it was me (the years will do that), but I knew him right away. He said he hadn’t seen anyone he knew but we changed that and had a mini reunion right there! Before he knew it we had a crowd of friends around him laughing and chatting and exchanging emails and, of all things, facebook contacts. Who would have thought that he has been on social media all these years! I can’t wait until he stops in again!

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 9 Comments

  1. The story about Leo was so very nice. Thank you for sharing. It’s always a blessing to encounter an old friend, or welcome a new aquaintance. The human connection remains one of the most treasured things in life.

    Be well. Be happy.

  2. What a lovely story to experience and share. It never ceases to amaze me how Behnkes embodies, embraces and celebrates the beauty of “family” through connections. The Behnkes family understands the value of embracing all who are lucky enough to be part of the “Behnkes Experience.” Past, present and future.

  3. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks a lot for sharing your picture and story aboud Leo, i have been working at Behnke with leo early 70ths i remember leo as a good men, and it is so nice that Leo is well.
    I remember you as a very joung girl, have been working with Sonja , Ira, and Helmut, working at Behnke i never forget i have had a very good time there, i have also been to mr Behnkes house a few times.
    Do not forget to say hello to Sonja.
    All the best for you and the compagny.

    Hans van Dijk, from the Netherlands.

  4. I worked at Behnke’s in the 80’s as a teen. I remember Leo well and, although I didn’t know it at the time, he taught me much that I still carry with me today. It’s great to see he is doing well.

  5. I came across this post on Welcoming An Old Friend and wanted to thank you for sharing! It was so good to see the picture of Leo and hear how he’s doing! I worked with Leo in Largo in the greenhouses in the 80s and learned alot from him.

  6. I am really glad you all took the time to comment on this. I will let him know to check out all your comments and I know he will be happy to hear that you guys took the time to write.
    Happy 2018!
    Stephanie Fleming

  7. Dear Stephanie,

    As I haven’t been on the site of Behnkes Nurseries for a very long time, I tried to call Joachim and Sonja yesterday. None at home at that time, so I called Behnkes to ask if they are still ok. As a young lady didn’t know them she got somebody else on the phone And it was ???? Alfred! I remember him very well when working at your place in 1976. As I want to send him a picture I need the email address of Behnkes, Will you be so kind? By the way, I sold the Ford T I bought from your husband some years later, but it’s still running.

    regards, Reiner

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