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Life in Full Bloom

Article Date: 
22 October, 2010 - 06:00

Valerie Kelley is the owner whose name appears on one of the community’s long time and well-known businesses in Morgan City...   The small-town quaintness and invitingly cheerful store sits front and center on State Street greeting all those who enter Morgan City after exiting Interstate 84.  
Val has owned and operated this distinct little flower shop for over three decades.  She is now hanging up her florist apron and will no longer be pruning plants and to a pretty for retirement.  “It’s been a labor of love here…” said Val.   “Now I need to spread that around more.”  On the last day that Val’s flower shop would be open, I was there to fulfill my assignment for The Morgan County News.  That day was September 30, just a short week following the official first day of autumn.  It felt like appropriate timing for a florist to shed the old and prepare for her new season of life.    
Most everybody in Morgan City, and probably most of Morgan County, knows about Val and her flower and gift shop.  All of the flowers and greenery around Val’s shop make for beautiful surroundings in which to work.  When I asked Val how she was feeling about her decision to retire on her last day.  She assured me with her response that she would still be working with flowers…just in other ways.  “I will still play with flowers in my own yard, but I’m ready to move on.”
However, there are more than just flowers to look at in Val’s shop.  When one walks in the door of the store, they are greeted with a message on a decorated stone which reads, “Welcome to My Garden,” and then, upon further examination around the shop, you see other pleasant thoughts and sayings like, “Friends Who Plant Kindness Gather Love” and “Life Began in a Garden.”  The words have been creatively engraved, stitched, and/or painted, on everything from wall plaques to throw pillows.  
In fact, the shop is a pleasant burst of color and creativity with gift ideas galore.  Besides the pretty petals on the numerous flower arrangements for sale, they shop walls and shelves are filled with fun things to look at and consider for purchase. There are so many things that it is sometimes difficult to focus on just one item.  My eye lands on a mug with the phrase, “Light a Candle, listen to the wind, draw a picture, eat some chocolate, open a book, look at the moon, and smile at yourself.”  
“Wow!” I say to myself as I realize how my mood is sunnier just from reading this reminder list to enjoy the little things in life.   As I continue to learn more about this lady and her life, I realize that the gifts on display express the spirit of her business philosophy.  Val summed up many of her feelings about closing down the family business and what it has meant to her for the past three decades with, “We enjoy working with the people and dealing with them more than anything else.”   
Take Time to …Yes…Stop and Smell the Flowers
Val and, before he passed away,  her husband, Dennis set down roots on State Street for the long season ahead and started to grow.  Many hours have been put into the work of providing a d in the community to provide their service.   She believes that the philosophy towards their customers has been a key factor.  “Quality and service is really what we sold, and that is really what is missing in today’s society,” stated Valerie.  She has noticed employees in positions to serve customers always seem to be in a hurry to get rid of one customer and move to the next to merely get them in and out quickly.    Val explained that one of the reasons she could never operate her business that way is because of Morgan’s tight-knit community.  She said, “The people we serve are not just our customers, they are our good friends and neighbors.”
Getting to the Root of it All
Val’s passion for beautiful flowers started long before they open the doors to Val’s Flowers.  Dennis worked with flowers and gardens in his youth, he work at the State Capitol grounds. He was the head gardener for the grounds surrounding Governors Clyde and Rampton’s mansions; also was the gardener at Holy Cross and Shiner’s Hospitals, and landscaping for ProssWood residential community.
Valerie’s love for plants & flowers began as a child in England; she would play in the family garden. Her father was a professional gardener. When her parents joined the LDS church and the family moved to Utah. Her father’s first job was working on the Salt Lake Temple grounds.
Dennis and Valerie’s passion for flowers brought them together in their early teens. They both had joined a junior garden club. They participated in shows and received awards and prizes for their efforts.

They Started to Bloom
The Kelley’s came to Morgan over 32 years ago, from Bountiful.  They had purchased a home and business in Porterville in 1978. Dennis & Valerie had partnered with High Valley Floral. They tried to have a turf farm business, which they help support by selling flowers and making corsages for Mother’s Day and dances. In April 1979 they realized the flowers were the demand. So for a time the floral business took over part of their home.
 When local interest picked up, they needed more space. They moved into the old bank on Commercial Street, with the Morgan County News, in 1985, said former owner, Ken Adams.
As their business grew,” they moved in 1988 inside Roger’s Foods (now Jubilee’s) where the pharmacy is now,” owner Roger Terry remembered. This allowed more space and accessibility for their customers.
Life’s Storms Sometimes Hit Out
of Season /
“Sometimes the Snow Comes Down in June”
Like so many strong people, Valerie and Dennis had weathered their share of bad storms in life and came out on the other side of it seeing the new hope of a rainbow.  Then, Valerie had been diagnosed with cancer and was finishing her treatment, when the unexpected and unpredicted tsunami came to her shores.  As with other sudden tragedies, it would change the lives of those it hit.  
At the time, Valerie had already been fighting cancer.  Her treatments were being finished and it looked as if the clouds had finally parted and rays of light would be returning.  Before the first storm clouds of her cancer had completely parted and moved on, a new formation of clouds came to darken her world again.  
On just a normal day of the week, Dennis had been working on the roof of the flower shop when he suddenly slipped and fell.  He fell the entire distance from rooftop to street pavement.  Dennis sustained life threatening injuries from the fall which led to his passing shortly after.  
When expressing sympathies to Val, she simply says, “He went quickly.  That was a blessing that he didn’t have to suffer.  He was a very active person who lived by the philosophy that one should, “Live in the moment and enjoy each day.”

Seasons Do Change
Blossoms Do Appear,
We Can Always Find New Growth
After Dennis’ passing, Valerie did not want to make a rush decision.  She decided to give it one year before making any large life-changing decisions.  She would have 1 year with the four distinct Utah seasons brining change, new life, and growth.  As Val turned the page on the final day of the 12 month stretch recently, she had to be a stronger person.  
With Dennis’ passing a year before, Val had stepped back in to the flower business to run it alone for the first time.  She quickly found out how much Dennis had quietly been doing for the business and that she or someone would have to do in his place to succeed.  Life lesson learned… Do not take people for granted and assume they are doing less than you or nothing.  .  
After also learning and being reminded about all of the work that would really be required to run the business alone, she began to come to the realization that she had been involved in running and in working for the en a year, since then, and she has realized she has put in her time. She found out that the business was so much a joint effort, now she finds it hard to do alone.
Now she will have time to continue to remember her husband and continue to recover from the cancer.  She wants to get to know her grandchildren, and make treats for them and be able to show love and support in what they are doing.  Valerie already volunteers at the Morgan Family History Center once a week. She and her daughter plan to start a genealogy business. She plans on enhancing her talents of painting and writing, especially writing family histories.
Expressing her feelings, Valerie said “we appreciate all the love and support from the people of Morgan. They have been just marvelous to us over the years. It’s been an interesting progression.”   
Special thanks to all of our employees, both present and past, whom without, we would not have been able to do everything we have done.”  The current employees include Anita Kember for 13 years, Brenda Adair for 2 years, and Michelle Nalder for 1 year. Anita and Brenda worked in the store and helped with the flowers. Michelle would make the deliveries and run the register. The employees agreed that they had “great bosses.”
Val’s Flower’s employees will be moving on to other employment. Anita hopes to be working at “Storybook Heirlooms”. Brenda will be working at Morgan Valley Polaris. Michelle is looking for employment.