Like anyone who signs their name to the adoption reunion registry, Raymond Reitsma had no way of predicting what family he would discover he was born into. In Reitsma’s case, it was one with a century of horticultural roots in Saanich.
“I was like a sponge when I first reunited,” he said. “I kept on wanting to seek all of this information on the family that I never knew about.
“The more I found out, the more interested I became in it.”
Reitsma first connected with his birth mother, Beverly Jennings Bazin, back in 1994. His research since led him to learn more recently that the Jennings brothers William and Frank had come to Saanich from England in 1911. The two had bought land on Ruby Road, on what is McKenzie Avenue today, and Cedar Hill Road and built their original homes along the 3900-block of Shelbourne St.
The family founded Jennings Florists in 1920, which is still in operation in Oak Bay and was the birthplace of Art Knapp plant stores. Reitsma, a Tsawwassen resident, along with Jennings Bazin, her six other children and some-100 relatives, gathered earlier this month to celebrate the anniversary. Descendants of William and Frank came from as far away as Manitoba, met and all shared a love of horticulture, among other things, Reitsma said.
“(The reunion) almost took kind of an Antiques Roadshow turn when my birth mom suggested that everybody bring an old family artifact if they have one, so people were bringing things that were passed down from their parents and parents’ parents.”
Reitsma traced the Jennings line back to the 1100s and discovered family ties to Princess Diana and Winston Churchill.