The annual Greater Victoria Flower Count celebrates the city’s temperate weather and community spirit. (Don Denton/Black Press)

The annual Greater Victoria Flower Count celebrates the city’s temperate weather and community spirit. (Don Denton/Black Press)

Founder of Victoria’s ‘cheeky’ flower count, dies at 97

This year’s 45th annual flower count, held March 4 to 11, saw a total of 45.9 billion blooms

The Victoria woman who started a light-hearted campaign to count flower blossoms sprouting in British Columbia’s capital when much of Canada remained locked in winter’s grip has died.

Norma Fitzsimmons, whose annual Greater Victoria Flower Count signals the early arrival of spring in Canada’s warmest winter city, died Friday, July 24 after suffering a stroke. She was 97 years old.

This year’s 45th annual flower count, held March 4 to 11, saw a total of 45.9 billion blooms recorded in Greater Victoria.

“I don’t think she meant to get under anybody’s skin,” said granddaughter Sheri Bourrie. “It was just a cheeky way of being, ‘Hey, look at us and look at how fantastic Victoria is.’”

Fitzsimmons, born in August 1922, never left Victoria and stayed in her home overlooking scenic Cadboro Bay until the final two weeks of her life.

Flowers were her lifelong passion and served as her way of helping people and promoting Victoria, known as the City of Gardens, said Bourrie.

“You didn’t ever go to her house and there wasn’t a flower arrangement,” she said. “Even the last time we visited her there was a flower arrangement. Fresh flowers, her orchids, her flower garden outside. It was all about flowers for my grandma.”

Fitzsimmons started her career as a florist, working in flower shops in downtown Victoria before buying her own flower business in 1957, which she sold in the late 1980s, Bourrie said.

RELATED: Saanich counts most blooms in 45th Greater Victoria Flower Count

Fitzsimmons, known as a tireless community volunteer, would make flowers part of as many local events as she could, said Bourrie.

She would donate and arrange flowers for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners at Victoria’s downtown Our Place shelter for homeless people. She also provided flowers and arrangements for the Greater Victoria Art Gallery, Victoria Symphony and the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Bourrie said she organized a beach wedding in 2010 for former cross-Canada runner Steve Fonyo after sponsors pulled out of the event following news the cancer survivor’s bride had previous convictions.

“She was always about the underdog,” said Bourrie, adding her grandmother later invited the couple to celebrate their one-year anniversary in her backyard. “She wanted to do what she could to make it a beautiful thing for Steve and his wife.”

Daughter Diane Kuypers said her mother saw herself as an ambassador for Victoria as a colourful, generous and welcoming city, and her message spread nationally and globally.

“It’s a hard act to follow,” said Kuypers. “She was just so kind and her love of life — I think that gave her that longevity that she did have because of her passion for everything.”

Kuypers said she will always remember being in her mother’s kitchen looking out at her country-style garden of daisies, lilies and cherry and magnolia trees, with the ocean in the distance.

“She was very happy right up until the end,” Kuypers said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Fitzsimmons made amazing contributions the Victoria area and the flower count has helped the city become a major tourist destination in February and March when other places are cold.

“I think the benefit of the flower count is the story it tells, and I think that’s a lasting legacy that Norma Fitzsimmons has left for our community and I’m very grateful to her for that,” she said.

Helps said Fitzsimmons exemplifies the city’s “secret sauce” of independent entrepreneurship coupled with community service.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Flower Count

Just Posted

Greater Victoria is ranked fourth out of 27 Canadian cities for the best places for youth to work in, according to a RBC report. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria among best Canadian cities for youth to work in, says RBC report

Region ranked fourth out of 27, behind Vancouver, Hamilton and Edmonton

Donna Brower (left) and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, members of the Silver Swans – a quilting group of 12 ladies who meet at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – with a mountain of masks they sewed. (Photo submitted by Julia Dawson)
Saanich quilting group nabs first prize in Volunteer BC photo contest

Silver Swans sewing club raised more than $12,000 for Swan Lake nature sanctuary

Happy green tomato seedlings wait to be purchased at 3378 Wishart Rd. in Colwood. They’ve been grown especially for the Colwood Garden Society’s fundraiser to build a shed at the community garden. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Colwood Garden Society hopes to raise shed with plant sale

Herbs, vegetable starts, flowers and more for $1, $2 and $3 until May 15

Divyesh Nagarajan, third from the left, has founded the Be My Friend project to bring support and companionship to vulnerable youth and address North Saanich’s food security challenges. (Courtesy of Divyesh Nagarajan)
Greater Victoria teen looks to connect vulnerable youth with a buddy, bolster food security

Be My Friend project was founded by St. Michaels University School student Divyesh Nagarajan

The City of Victoria is proposing a northern contraction from Haultain Street to Bay Street with a western contraction from Cook Street to Chambers Street for Fernwood. (Illustration/Google Maps)
Community association calls for input on Victoria boundary changes

City of Victoria proposes changes to neighbourhood borders

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

A nurse asks screening questions at an immunization appointment in Nanaimo earlier this year. (Shawn Wagar/Island Health photo)
Island Health appreciates nurses answering the call in challenging times

Health authority draws attention to National Nursing Week

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. (Contributed)
‘This is a life saving tool’: App helps paramedics find capsized canoeists near Revelstoke

What3words pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-meter range

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Most Read