The Jack Of Our Trade

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I’m dedicating our first Talking Shop Issue and this poinsettia season to Jack Williams, a man who helped a world of growers succeed with their crops. For 26 years, Jack has been the face of Ecke Ranch and trusted technical advisor helping growers produce poinsettias, blooming potted plants and spring annuals. He was a popular speaker and actively engaged in the educational programming at OFA and other conferences. And each April hundreds of people looked forward to Jack giving them a fun personal tour of Ecke Ranch’s Spring Trials in Encinitas, Calif.

In October, we paused to reflect on what a special person Jack was, his contributions to our industry and how much we’re going to miss him. He died at age 54 on Oct. 18 while on a business trip in Asia and then Australia. He is survived by his wife, Cheryl, and children, Bethany and Stephen, in Encinitas.

As a technical specialist for Ecke Ranch and Ecke Europe, Jack visited greenhouses and trial sites throughout the world to evaluate crops, production systems and assess needs and opportunities in each market.

Jack and Paul Ecke III were classmates at Colorado State University, where Jack earned his bachelor of science degree in horticulture/floriculture in 1979. “He was a much better student than I!” Ecke says. “He was a lucky man because he had amazing passion and creativity for his job and was literally a rock star out in the industry. Everyone loved Jack.”

In addition to visiting growers in North America, Jack traveled to Asia, Africa, India and Europe. “Everyone knew Jack would be the guy who could help them be successful,” Ecke says. “He will be missed terribly but I know he would have wanted us to carry on and continue to share the beauty of plants and flowers with the world.”

Jack was known for his zest for life and was a positive influence on everyone he met. “What made Jack special was not necessarily his technical knowledge but his passion for the business,” says Sim McMurry of Metrolina Greenhouses. “It was like every day was Christmas, not just for poinsettias, but everything he was involved in. He had the excitement you have when you go downstairs on Christmas morning.”

At GreenhouseGrower.com, we were touched to see nearly 60 people from all over the world pay tribute to Jack, when we reported the news and posted his obituary.

“Jack was such a big part of a great industry,” says Rick Brown of Riverview Flower Farm in Florida. “Jack’s fun and intellectual demeanor made him stand out as a person in our industry I sought out and always looked forward to seeing. Jack was an inspiration to me and many others, I am sure.”

How do you replace someone like Jack? You just can’t. It’s impossible. What we can do is carry his spirit forward by:
–Sharing the passion we have for plants and our industry
–Giving back by investing time and resources in research and education
–Unleashing our creativity to market plants in new ways and develop new products
–Staying upbeat as we tackle problems and challenges
–Having fun!

In Jack’s memory this holiday season, give a blooming plant to someone you love or introduce a child or someone outside our industry to plants. If you’d like to make a personal contribution, a memorial fund has been established in his name. Memorials may be made to Jack Williams Memorial Trust, c/o Cheryl Williams, 842 Summersong Ct., Encinitas, CA 92024.

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at donofrey@gmail.com

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