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Smiles in full bloom

By Staff | May 5, 2008

Maryjean Miller and her uncle, Clarence Smith, discuss delivery of three Amaryllis plants.

Nothing can match the bright and cheerful smile often illuminating the face of 98-year-old Clarence Smith, but the window sill of his room at Winnebago’s Parker Oaks Retirement Community comes very close.

Home to flowering plants of various colors, much of the foliage found on the sill serves as a reminder of this one-time farmer’s love for the outdoors.

But three of the plants found there — a trio of red Amaryllis flowers — serve as much more; they pay tribute to Clarence’s love of others.

Before Clarence became a resident of the local care facility two years ago, he spent more than 10 years growing Amaryllis bulbs in a huge garden on his farm site. He would then personally deliver the flowering bulbs to Parker Oaks residents in need of cheering up.

The venture, he says with a grin, came out of necessity — he simply had too many of the colorful plants to keep at home.

“They are there to share,” he adds. “Not pile up.”

Although Clarence no longer has his garden, he is still brightening the days of his fellow residents with help from his niece, rural Winnebago’s Maryjean Miller. Maryjean has picked up where Clarence left off, caring for more than 25 bulbs in her rural Winnebago home and delivering them to Parker Oaks.

Surrounded by numerous other plants and seedlings lining her own window sills, Maryjean laughs as she talks about her experience with the Amaryllis bulbs the past two years. Last year, she says, wasn’t the best — she couldn’t get the bulbs to flower. And this year the bulbs are putting on leaves first and budding second. (The bulbs should flower and then produce leaves.) But, no matter what Maryjean says about the problems she’s had, it’s apparent a green thumb runs in the family.

With three Amaryllis budding and ready to bloom, Maryjean loads her car and drives to Parker Oaks with the plants in tow.

Seated near his window, Clarence is ready as Maryjean walks in with the plants. He gives her the names of three people who may need a cheering up because of surgery, broken bones or an illness.

Maryjean then delivers the plants, getting numerous thank-yous and smiles in return.

Their response makes it all worth while, says Maryjean.

“It’s just fun watching them cheer up,” she adds.