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Published: Sunday, 1/20/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Florence Oberle, 1914-2013

Retired teacher had been gardener of year

BLADE STAFF

GRAND RAPIDS, Ohio — Florence Oberle, who was widely recognized for her flower gardens and the luscious desserts she served at formal teas in her home and to unexpected guests, died in her River Road home on Friday.

She was 98 and had been in good health until fall, when colon cancer and heart troubles were diagnosed, according to Bonnie Hudspeath, a friend.

Hundreds of people passed through Mrs. Oberle’s home for tea and tours of her gardens. She set a beautiful table with fine china and silver and her own flowers, including rose petals floating in finger bowls.

“To me, her scones were the best,” said Geneva Williams, former owner of Gourmet Curiosities, where Mrs. Oberle taught classes and sold her packaged scone mix.

The teas in her home grew out of a dream of owning a restaurant and she was particular about the smallest details. Her diners, who often paid by donation, sometimes made reservations a year in advance.

She was just as well-known for her flowers.

She won blue ribbons at the Wood County Fair for her floral arrangements.

In 1982, Grand Rapids Mayor Harry Jeffers presented Mrs. Oberle with a certificate for years of maintaining and sharing the village’s most beautiful gardens.

In 1962, the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, Region 1, which includes six counties, named her the outstanding gardener of the year.

“She had a spirit of joy about her and she just gave,” Ms. Hudspeath said. “She was a very giving person.”

She was born Sept. 6, 1914, and was adopted by Carl and Anna Saltz Laskey along with her siblings, Margaret and Harold. Mrs Laskey was her maternal aunt.

She was valedictorian of Grand Rapids High School in 1932 and studied elementary education at Bowling Green State University.

Her teaching career began with two years at Milton Center School in Wood County. She retired in 1976 from Washington Local after teaching 39 years.

She was proud of her Wood County ancestry. Her great-grandmother taught school in Wood County before the Civil War.

In 1954, she married Edward N. Oberle of Grand Rapids. He died in 1965.

She was secretary of the Grand Rapids Senior Citizens. She was a member of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, the Wood County Retired Teachers Association, the Grand Rapids Historical Society, and First Families of Wood County. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Grand Rapids for 60 years.

There are no immediate survivors.

Visitation is at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Wright-Habegger Funeral Home, Grand Rapids, followed by services at 2 p.m.

Tributes are suggested to the Grand Rapids Historical Society.



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