Else Kientzler, who helped build the company Kientzler into a plant breeding powerhouse, died Friday (March 26). Below, Garry Grueber of Cultivaris Europe shares his memories of Else.
On Friday, March 26, Else Kientzler (née Hick) passed away at the age of 86. She leaves three children behind–Iris, Helmut and Ludwig Kientzler, as well as many grand- and great-grandchildren.
Else Hick came to Bad Kreuznach (Germany) in 1943 at the age of 19. During World War II, young women were assigned jobs in factories or in agriculture to compensate for the men at the frontlines. She began working at the young plant company Kientzler. It was there she met the young Ludwig Kientzler Jr. In 1945, she married Ludwig Kientzler and a new era for the traditional company began, in which she would play a significant role.
The post-war years were difficult and full of sacrifices, but the then small, specialized nursery was able to survive and develop–as did the young family of Else and Ludwig. However, in 1960, Else’s husband succumbed to a stroke. All of a sudden, Else was left with three young children without a father–and a nursery without a man at the helm to manage the company.
All the employees and colleagues in the industry advised Else to sell the nursery–at this time, it was utterly unthinkable that a woman–without horticultural training, and a widowed mother at that–could possibly run the affairs of a nursery. However, she knew that her husband’s wish was to build the nursery so all three children could have a future in the company. Against all odds, Else Kientzler not only kept the company running, but she expanded the nursery and eventually moved the entire company from Bad Kreuznach to Gensingen, where the headquarters of the Kientzler group of companies is now located.
Unbelievably hard working and with an iron-clad willpower, Else ran the business over decades, until her sons Ludwig and Helmut were old enough to take on the reins. The company was her lifeblood and her fulfillment–even as Kientzler had grown to become one of the major players in the European young plant industry, she would still work in the greenhouses and coolers, packing chrysanthemum liners for shipping.
In 2004, at the age of 80, she charmed everyone that attended the 100th anniversary of the Kientzler company with her elegant, attractive demeanor, her Lebensfreude and her always positive attitude. Her unwavering work ethics, her determination and her willingness to make sacrifices have certainly played a key role in making the Kientzler one of the most innovative companies in the worldwide floriculture industry.
A strong, proud woman that–despite being a hard-nosed businesswoman–never lost her deep appreciation for the beautiful products this industry produces. With her passing, a piece of the industry’s history is lost–but her legacy lives on.