Goodwill bouquets unify neighbors, brighten lives

On a genuinely voluntary basis, Vern Bringhurst has brightened lives in his ward for the past four years by delivering bouquets of gladioluses to every family, member and non-member, within the boundaries of his ward.

Susanne Johnson, one of the recipients in Willow Creek 8th Ward in Sandy, said, "The flowers make you feel wonderful.""Every household in the ward is the beneficiary of his generosity," she continued. She described Bringhurst as a "very grandfatherly, wise person to whom a lot of people go for advice. He has a kind of instinct for when people are down and when they need a lift.

"He also gives vegetables, but the flowers are what set him apart," said Sister Johnson.

Bringhurst said he gives away the flowers because "people get such a kick out of gladioluses. You go up to a door and they can't believe someone would give them a bouquet. It has been very rewarding to my wife and me."

Bringhurst began growing gladioluses some 40 years ago when his wife, Oceal, brought home a bag of bulbs from her grandparents, who had been professionals at growing flowers. When the first row of buds burst into color in the Bringhurst garden, he was hooked.

"I've always been intrigued with the gladiolus," he said. "It is a beautiful flower."

Over the years, he received additional bulbs from friends in the Utah Gladiolus Society, and expanded his garden. Today, he varies planting of some 4,200 bulbs to have blossoms from June until the first frost. In his garden are Marmalade, Ice Cap, Parade, and Patty Gays that flower in oranges, full-blossomed pure whites, hot pinks and pale reds that recede from floret petals into white throats.

After his retirement as superintendent of sanitation at the Salt Lake County shops, he began to add to his garden. At first he took bouquets to nearby neighbors, and then to other ward members and non-members.

He has entered blossoms in the county fair, but now chooses instead to share them with additional people of his ward. This year, he's given away 217 bouquets.

One husband recently commented to him, "If it weren't for you, my wife would never get flowers."

Once, he recalled, he gave flowers to a sister in the ward who was particularly touched. She said, through tears, "How did you know I needed a special uplift this morning?"

He also provides bouquets to the Willow Creek 8th Ward meetinghouse each week, an amenity that has warmed and lifted spirits of members of all three wards meeting there. Stake missionaries also deliver his flowers as a sort of warm calling card.

One non-member couple who have since left the area wrote that they didn't mind leaving their home, but hated to leave the neighborhood because of the man who gave them flowers.

"It is very rewarding being able to give and cheer someone up," Bring-hurst said. "Think of all the joy and satisfaction we have received."

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