Fred Heroman Jr., a prominent Baton Rouge florist and greenhouse grower whose plants stocked flower shops across Louisiana and nearby states for more than 40 years, died at his home Thursday at the age of 95.
Heroman was born in Baton Rouge in 1919, finished Catholic High School in 1936 and served in World War II’s Pacific Theater with the Army Air Corps.
When he returned, he and his wife Elise opened Baton Rouge’s first large-scale greenhouses and garden center on Greenwell Springs Road just east of Airline Highway and eventually moved to a plot of land more than 100 acres large that became the site of Dutchtown High School, said one of his sons, Fred William Heroman.
The Baton Rouge operation was so large-scale and industrious — with 30 full-time employees and about as many working part time — that the business grew up to 1 million plants at any given time, according to his son. With a scale that large, Heroman became a regional supplier to large-scale stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, with frequent shipments to Mississippi and Alabama.
Heroman was focused on making a profit as best he could, with plants that thrived in south Louisiana’s climate, his son said. He grew a range of blooming plants and foliage, including poinsettias, Easter lilies and hydrangeas. He also had a greenhouse venture in Puerto Rico where he readied crotons and bromeliads.
He loved his work so much that as a nightly routine, he’d sit in front of the TV at home and watch shows like “Jeopardy!” while cutting out caladium sprouts to make the other sprouts grow more robust to compensate. He continued his work even into his 90s.
He loved “getting his hands dirty and putting his plants in the soil,” his son said. “I’m most grateful for the lessons that I’ve learned from him in working hard and diligently.”
Growing plants turned out to run in the family. For four decades, his son Fred William Heroman ran his own Baton Rouge flower shop on Florida Boulevard, and another son, Patrick Heroman, worked with him in the greenhouses for 20 years before starting an interior plantscaping business.
Outside of work, the elder Heroman helped start the East Baton Rouge Lions Club and briefly served as club president in the 1950s. He also had a long-running passion for cooking, especially barbecue. He helped organize Baton Rouge’s first Culinary Classic in 1985 and received awards with titles like “Lay Chef of the Year.”
And he was known affectionately as “the bear” for his sometimes-gruff manner.
“He always had an opinion to offer whether requested or not,” his son said. “Yet I do believe that … in his mind, it was him trying to help you the best he knew how.”
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