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Published: Thursday, 2/10/2005

Floral designer was innovative

Helen C. Jennings, 91, a business owner whose floral designs graced area events for about 35 years, died of pneumonia Tuesday in St. Luke's Hospital.

She lived in Foundation Park Care Center the last four years.

Ms. Jennings began to work for flower shops in the late 1940s. Design caught her interest. "She was a very innovative woman," her son, Gerald Meisner, said. "She developed her own technique."

She started on her own in the early 1960s by opening the Flower Haven on Douglas Road near Alexis Road. She later opened Helen's Flower Shop, which began in the 3100 block of Lagrange Street and moved to the 2700 block of Lagrange, and a flower shop on East Broadway. She retired in 1982.

When a national florists group had a convention and seminar in Toledo, Ms. Jennings was one of the demonstrating designers. "She was pretty well known in the Toledo area," her son, Arthur McDonough, said. "She was probably more flamboyant than most of the designers at the time. She did a lot more with color. She liked to do a kind of an 'S' figure with big arrangements. She was well known to her customers as giving great value for the money."

She worked alone most of the time and spent long hours on the job. "She was very diligent and very concentrated in her efforts," Mr. McDonough said. "She was an early-day entrepreneur. She did a lot of things that most women of the time wouldn't think to do."

Her parents died by the time she was 8, and she grew up in St. Anthony's Villa orphanage.

After World War II, she crocheted baby clothes and other items, which she sold door to door. She continued to crochet long into retirement. "She was artistically creative," Mr. Meisner said. "She'd just pick up the balls of yarn and put them together."

She was preceded in death by former husbands Harry Meisner, Durward Williamson, Edward McDonough, and Earl Jennings.

Surviving are her sons, Gerald Meisner and Arthur McDonough; seven grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Boyer VanWormer Scott Mortuary, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow. The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.

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