Richard LaMee

Richard LaMee
Celebrating a milestone birthday with their father are Richard’s daughters Lorese Baker, Lisa Salsburg and Richelle Owens.

Celebrating a milestone birthday with their father are Richard’s daughters Lorese Baker, Lisa Salsburg and Richelle Owens.

Richard LaMee, 74, sitting and reminiscing in his elegant Lakewood home is generations removed from his French great-grandfather Captain William LaMee, but he too has added a rich chapter to the family’s history.

LaMee is the last family member to carry on the LaMee Florist business started by his grandfather Frank during the 1930s. He is a fascinating historian of the LaMee family which was recognized in 1995 by the Northeast Florida Sesquicentennial Celebration Commission as a Pioneer Family who homesteaded in Florida prior to 1845.

“My great-grandfather LaMee, whose family came from France, was a pilot boat captain in the Fort George Island area. He homesteaded on Batten Island, Hecksher Drive and that is where my grandfather Frank grew up. Frank later moved to Springfield and graduated from Jacksonville’s Max Morris School of Pharmacy. He worked as a registered pharmacist in the Cowford area of Southside,” Richard said.

Richard lived with his parents Clarence, a JEA employee, and Neva (Price) LaMee in their family home on Thacker Avenue in San Marco. His grandparents Frank and Susan LaMee’s hobby of growing and selling plants and flowers from their home grew into a business that led Frank to open LaMee Florist in 1934. Their florist shop stood on Atlantic Boulevard at Hendricks Avenue, where only an empty lot remains today. They lived there in a modest two-story home next door to the floral shop, where they and Richard’s mother Neva all worked. There was also a greenhouse they built out back.

LaMee holds a prized 1950s leather football helmet he received as a gift; he ran track for Landon High School but did not play football.

LaMee holds a prized 1950s leather football helmet he received as a gift; he ran track for Landon High School but did not play football.

Richard remembers helping out every day after school at the family business and at age 16 he started delivering flowers in the LaMee Truck. Later during its heyday under Richard’s operation, LaMee Florist grew to six locations and the family owned a large horticultural farm on Spring Park Road.

“When I turned 21, Papa Frank LaMee said for me to go pick any car I wanted to drive as my company car, so I went to Bill Nimnicht Riverside Chevrolet and bought a brand new blue Corvette right off their showroom floor. Mother asked me how in the world I was going to deliver flowers in a Corvette…of course I still had the truck too,” he said.

Richard was a 1958 graduate of Landon High School, attended the University of Florida two years and graduated from Jacksonville University in 1963 with a business degree. In the 1980s he took over LaMee Florist which he successfully operated for more than 35 years. In 2007 he retired and sold the business to Ron and Rose Jackson, owners of Anything With Plants.

LaMee’s grandfather prepares to make a flower delivery

LaMee’s grandfather prepares to make a flower delivery

LaMee is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville. His grandfather Frank was a founding member of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church. A favorite hobby is golf and he is a 30-year member of San Jose Country Club. He enjoys boating in his Sea Ray, keeps in touch with JU fraternity friends and supports university athletics and events. He was honored to receive a medal from the university on the 50th anniversary of his graduation, as one of its most outstanding alumni. Surprisingly for such an artistic gentleman, LaMee is also a bit of a daredevil who has always enjoyed racing and once owned a race car.

“I used to ride my red Harley Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle down to Daytona, liked to race boats and owned a late model dirt track race car driven by Robert McCormick. It was a lot of fun to race at Jacksonville Speedway, but I never made any money,” he said.

LaMee has served as president of every professional floral association in Florida and keeps current with floral industry news. Although the market has changed dramatically over his lifetime, he believes there will always be a need for professional florists.

“Many grocery stores have floral departments now which is great because it makes flowers more available and affordable for everyone. But there will always be a need for professional, knowledgeable and experienced florists qualified to provide design advice and guidance, especially for weddings and funerals,” he said. “The greatest advance in our industry is the ready availability of fresh flowers from anywhere in the world.” Unfortunately for LaMee, his personal favorite flower is the peony, which thrives elsewhere in the country but cannot tolerate Florida”s climate.

LaMee has held volunteer offices with several charities and civic organizations including Vision is Priceless, Kiwanis and San Jose Rotary Club. He is a 20-year volunteer for the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair and its immediate past chairman. LaMee praises the non-profit fair and notes that since 1955 it has donated more than $2.7 million to local charities, awards annual student scholarships and attracted approximately 380,000 attendees in 2014.

The roles in life he values most now are those of father and grandfather. LaMee’s three beautiful daughters Lisa, Lorese and Richelle and their families all live in Jacksonville. He is grateful that he is able to live close to them and all 10 of his grandchildren.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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