It is with profound sadness that the Homestead Gardens family marks the passing of Don Riddle, Jr. Mere words cannot begin to express the sense of loss felt by those who have considered Don a friend, mentor, co-worker, and community leader. Don was many things to many people and irreplaceable on every level. His passion and commitment to family, the gardening industry, and the community was strikingly evident on a daily basis. We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community he so dearly loved, and ask that you keep his family in your prayers.
Those eloquent words from Homestead's Director of Marketing, Tim Hamilton, bear repeating here, and what more could this deeply saddened blogger add? Just to collect some of the wonderful words about Don that are appearing across the Internet - and more will be added as I find them. Other remembrances are being compiled in the Guest Book of the Kasla Funeral Home in Annapolis.
The very local Edgewater Patch recited Don's career as an outstanding businessman and his many contributions to the community, including "regularly offering the beautiful surroundings of Homestead Gardens to local charities for fundraising events." The article referred to Homestead Gardens being named Garden Center of the Year by the Garden Centers of America in 2004, and Nursery Retailer of the Year in 2008 by Nursery Retailer Magazine. "And Don was given the industry's most prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 by the Garden Center of America’s board of directors - it's their top honor."
Then in this subsequent Edgewater Patch story, many local organizations added their words of praise about Don. The head of the South River Federation noted that "Don's commitment to the community and to protecting the health of local rivers was tremendous." The head of the Anne Arundel Development corporation remembered that "he knew everything about every plant, he knew every employee by name, and you could tell he enjoyed what he did."
From the nursery and garden center industry came a wonderful article in Today’s Garden Center that noted Don's central role industry organizations, and beautification programs in Annapolis and Baltimore. The article went on to quote from several industry leaders:
From David Williams, president of Garden Centers of America: "Don Riddle was a true leader throughout this industry. He generously and passionately shared his many successes with other independents in hopes of raising the bar for all independent garden centers and growers. His friendship led me to countless friends and resources that have enriched me professionally and personally including Garden Centers of America. Don’s passing is a tremendous and heartbreaking loss."
From Sue DiStaulo of Braun Horticulture: "Don was a guiding force in my career from the very beginning. He introduced me to the industry and helped me learn and understand more about it. He was always willing to share his knowledge and answer any questions I had. He always greeted you with that amazing smile and made sure to say hello or ask how you were, no matter how busy he was. He was such a gracious and giving person. I am tremendously saddened by this news."
From A.J. Pettiti of Pettiti Garden Centers: "Don was a very, very close friend to our family. He was one of the most gentle, giving and warm hearted people we know. I don’t know anyone who loved or contributed more to our industry. He was always willing to give and share everything he knew with others. His leadership and legacy will continue to mold our industry for many years to come. Our family will be there to support Laura and her family with anything they need."
From Other Sources
Theresa Riley of Rockledge Gardens in Florida wrote on an industry Facebook group page: "He was certainly a role model to many of us. His garden center truly one of my very favorites in the country. I feel like we've lost a wonderful brother. So sad to hear the news."
Industry consultant Sid Raisch wrote on his Facebook page "So sad and tragic. Don was 'everyone's friend', a giant in the garden center business and as humble as the least among us. He made everyone feel special and important, always having a kind word and a compliment - and going out of his way to deliver them.'
On Homestead's Facebook page, another garden center owner, Eddie Anderson of McDonald Garden Center in Virginia, wrote: "Don Riddle brought inspiration and vision to every endeavor he touched. Homestead Gardens is a reflection of Don. Gracious, caring and always in good taste. Only the very highest standards of excellence were good enough for Homestead. The legacy of his efforts will continue to grow through the people that shared his vision."