Clifford A. Doebel, 1937-2013: Clyde greenhouse owner boosted city

Clifford A. Doebel.
Clifford A. Doebel.

CLYDE, Ohio — Clifford A. Doebel, third-generation owner of a nearly century-old flower and greenhouse business who was a booster of his community, died Monday in Stein Hospice, Sandusky. He was 75.

He had congestive heart disease and dealt with respiratory and other health problems in recent years, daughter Erica Holcomb said.

“He was still going to the business regularly up till October,” his daughter said. “He was always doing things he shouldn’t because he wanted to keep going.”

The business remains open, she said.

From 1962 on, his profession and full-time job were the care and feeding of Doebel’s Flowers, which was founded in 1916 by his grandfather. Called initially Arthur Doebel and Sons Greenhouse, the business is known for its bedding plants — such annuals as petunias and marigolds — and roses.

“People come from all over to get rose bushes from Doebel’s,” his daughter said. Birds of paradise and calla lilies also were specialties.

Few plants took more calculation than Easter lilies, which Mr. Doebel forced from bulb to at least near-bloom. With the holiday on a different date each year, preparations often begin weeks before Christmas. The greenhouse can provide only so much warmth when nights are below freezing. To compensate, greenhouse heat may exceed 80 degrees in the week before Easter Sunday.

“It’s a race to the wire,” Mr. Doebel told The Blade in 1979.

A flower and gift shop also have been staples of the business. A winter wonderland theme and petting zoo on the grounds attract visitors at Christmastime.

“He wanted to attract families and have something they could go to for free and enjoy,” his daughter said. “There are so many families that have come year after year.”

Mr. Doebel came up with other events to draw people to the business — but most important, to Clyde: a fine arts competition and a haunted greenhouse; flea markets; a run.

“He wanted to bring people to Clyde. He had a passion for putting Clyde on the map,” his daughter said.

He invited a Native American rain dancer to Clyde during the drought of 1988. A man from the Sioux reservation in South Dakota performed ceremonies over four days, and the event attracted national attention. Within hours of the final event, Clyde received about a quarter-inch of rain, the National Weather Service estimated then.

He took no personal interest in the attention.

“He was doing it to promote Clyde, period,” his daughter said. “He didn’t want many things for himself.”

Mr. Doebel was a former member of Clyde City Council, the Clyde Business and Professional Association, and ClydeScope, an economic development corporation.

Born Nov. 27, 1937, he was a 1955 graduate of Clyde High School. He received an engineering degree from Ohio State University, but afterward joined his parents in the business. His brother, Arthur, came aboard as well. In 1986, his mother and brother died within weeks of each other. Mr. Doebel and his wife, Cheryl, became the owners and operators.

The business has about 16 employees. He liked his job and horticulture, but was most concerned with the workers.

“He cared for the people, and he wanted them to fit in and find their place and have something they could enjoy and feel good about and be taken care of,” his daughter said.

He was an early member of Florists’ Transworld Delivery, his daughter said.

Mr. Doebel and his wife visited Naples, Fla., regularly through the years.

He learned piano in childhood and enjoyed playing show tunes and familiar melodies of the 20th century. George Gershwin was a favorite.

He wrote a book in 1999, The Gift of Giving.

Surviving are his wife, Cheryl, whom he married Sept. 16, 1962; daughter, Erica Holcomb; son, Eric; sister, Katherine Turner, and four grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-5 p.m. Sunday in the Mitchell-Auxter Funeral Home, Clyde. At his request, there will be no services.

The family suggests tributes to Community for the Arts in Clyde, Clyde Library, ClydeScope, or Stein Hospice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.