There is a man in Seaton's Grove that has wisdom beyond a lot of us.
I can first remember meeting this Wizard of Wisdom when I was a small child. I would go to his shop and look at all the fish. Tank after tank of colors and swimmers, crabs and fish. His greenhouse was a warm, misty walk of blooms that matched the color of his fish. The outside was just as glorious as the inside, a garden walk that was capped off with a frog pond. As I grew up in the area, I wandered into Seaton's Grove Green House a few times not knowing about John Francis and his wonderful gifts.
My next memory of the Greenhouse was when it was on fire in the middle of the night in the fall of 1994. It was my first major fire as a firefighter and it might be my hottest one of memory. It was a total loss. No more fish, no more flowers and as I learned recently, almost no more John.
He almost didn’t make it out of the greenhouse that night. He had to crawl out on hands and knees, searching for an unlocked door. He had dropped his keys while trying to unlock the front door and couldn’t find them because of the thick, black smoke. Thankfully for all of us, he made it out. For a while we thought in the Coulee that we may have just lost a major landmark in our community. But with determination and sweat and tears the business made a full recovery.
Today I know the wonderful man that sits behind a small counter, piled with flowers and greenery around him, making a bow with ease, while asking if I know “any new gossip.” His displays and bouquets are some of the most beautiful and thought out you will ever see. It’s almost as if he makes each one for the individual it represents. John doesn’t have a master gardener certification. (He does have a degree in adult education.) He has been planting a garden since he was in second grade and hasn’t missed a season since.
We once had to use a flower shop on the coast and we paid twice as much and the flowers looked like they were put together by blind monkeys. My family truly appreciates the talent John has put to good use, as do many of the people of our community and beyond.
But this is not his only gift. Flowers, kitties, and vegetables are just a small part of the great person. His greatest gift is his willingness to share — sharing his thoughts and ideas, all the while listening to yours. His advice may be edgy and hard to listen to, but it is spot on. John doesn’t get out of his little corner of Seaton’s Grove much; he says he has only left twice in the last year.
But if you friend him on Facebook, you will get daily treasures straight from his level headed mind. Although that doesn’t do him justice. You must go see and sit with John and you will learn not only the latest gossip, but you might learn about life. You tell him your stories, and he will share his, and you leave feeling really good that you just spent time with a great, wise man.
The last few years, the business end of things have been a struggle for John. He has on many occasions thought of retiring and moving on. So here is my challenge, Coulee Country. Go to Seaton's Grove and seek out a plant, a flower, seeds or a vase. Or maybe just sit and enjoy the company and wisdom of the guy at the flower shop. Be warned, he might try and give you a cat as you leave.
Thanks, John, for your service to our community and to your heartfelt words to me. Your dad would be proud.