Tucked away in a cul-de-sac by Cadboro Bay beach sits a ranch-style home known to neighbours as the meeting place.
For years, Norma Fitzsimmons has welcomed new and longtime neighbours into her Saanich home, allowing them to get to know each other through community potluck dinners.
Turning 90 in August hasn’t slowed down the longtime florist and former owner of Island Florist. Her big annual neigbourhood event and volunteer efforts remain an integral part of her life.
Born and raised in Victoria, Fitzsimmons’ love of flowers blossomed at an early age. Becoming a florist was “the most wonderful thing,” she says. “I’m my happiest when I’m working with flowers.”
Indeed, the former Saanich councillor – she held one term during the 1970s – was once known as Victoria’s “flower lady.”
She worked with the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and the Victoria AM Association, developing ideas to promote Victoria as a “City of Gardens.”
She started the annual and now famed Victoria Flower Count, as well as the tradition of greeting cruise ship visitors with a gift – originally roses, carnations and now pins.
These days she still assembles floral arrangements for the Greater Victoria Art Gallery as a volunteer, and often donates arrangements to Our Place, the Victoria Symphony, as well as the Victoria Conservatory of Music. “I just get involved with everything and anybody,” she says.
The self-professed people-person remembers getting caught stealing flowers from her neighbour’s yard when she was a little girl. These days, Fitzsimmons has a better relationship with her neighbours.
Back in the 1980s, being the last homeowner in the cul-de-sac to finish building her home, Fitzsimmons felt she needed to get to know her neighbours.
“I thought, ‘If you live in a cul-de-sac you have to know everybody.’”
Fitzsimmons invited neighbours from the seven other nearby homes and nearby streets to a potluck during the summer of 1985. And since then, it’s become an annual event.
“Everybody got to know each other,” she says. She also throws a yearly Christmas party.
The camaraderie among her 30 or so neighbours is what keeps her potlucks an annual summer affair. “We’re just like one big family,” she says.
The parties are always warm and welcoming, Fay Jones, a neighbour of Fitzsimmons for 22 years, says, noting there are always floral arrangements adorning the house.“She’s a perfect hostess,” Jones says. “It’s just a lovely evening which we all look forward to.”