Jack Reginald Christmas, the co-founder of Oakdell Nursery and an active participant in the horticulture industry, died May 24, 2012, in Apopka, Fla., according to his obituary in the Orlando Sentinel. He was 81.
The following is an excerpt from the obituary:
Christmas’s lifelong work in the foliage industry was characterized with the highest achievements. Christmas is well known as an innovator. He is appreciated for his selfless service and as an advocate of agricultural education within the industry and worldwide. Christmas took great pride in his Apopka roots. After graduating from Apopka Memorial High School in 1949, he immediately joined the Marines Corps, where he served during the Korean War until 1952.
After concluding his service with the Marines, he returned to Florida, where he and his father started an indoor houseplant business called Oakdell Nursery. In 1956, Christmas bought the business from his father and went on to develop it into one of the largest and most progressive foliage plant nurseries in the U.S., where Christmas led the industry in the mechanization of greenhouses and built the first tissue culture laboratory in the United States dedicated to advancement in the production of disease-free foliage.
It was Jack Christmas who, in 1977, testified before a Congressional Committee in Washington D.C. to win a case against the IRS earning all nurserymen the right to an investment tax credit for greenhouses. In 1976, Christmas sold his business to the Weyerhaeuser Company of Washington, and he remained as manager until retirement.
In addition to his many achievements as a businessman, Christmas used his considerable expertise in service to others. In 1968 he was elected to the American Academy of Florists, was elected president of the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association in 1969, served as President of the Orange County Farm Bureau from 1974-1976, was appointed judge of the International Flower Show in Ghent, Belgium, in 1975, was appointed to the St. Johns River Water Management Board in June 1976 and served on the Growers Council of the Society of American Florists in Washington, D.C., from 1976-1979 and again from 1988-1989.
In 1989 Christmas was elected to the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association National Hall of Fame. As recently as last year, Christmas was honored with a tribute garden at The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens.
He valued his family above all things and especially treasured his extraordinary wife Joan, who married him 59 years ago this November. Christmas also loved his hometown, and, from 2007 until 2011, wrote about it in a weekly column for The Apopka Chief under the heading “Historical Tidbits.” Last year, he collected the articles in a volume published as Tales of the Big Potato.