By LOIS KINDLE
It’s hard to believe that almost a month ago, Harriet Garbelman, 84, left this world behind. The brightest bloom of them all passed away peacefully Aug. 25, after five days at the Sun City Center Lifepath Hospice House in Ruskin. She was surrounded by family members and her beloved flowers.
“Miss Harriet has been a part of the community since she was a little girl and successfully started a local floral business with her mother, Violet, back when she was a teenager,” said her longtime friend Melanie Davis. “What began as Violet’s Flowers became Harriet’s Flowers, and the shop is still going strong after 70 years.”
The seeds of the family business, which now spans four generations, were sown when Garbelman, age 14, and her mom attended floral design school together. Her father, T. R., drove them all the way to Tampa for their classes twice a week.
“She passed on her love of color, creativity, gardening and nature to every generation of our family, but she didn’t stop there,” said her daughter, Gail Roszel. “She shared her love of flowers, floral design and orchard garden with anyone who would listen.”
Roszel formally took over operations of the shop in 2004. But true to her nature, Garbelman just kept working.
In fact, she was either in the shop or out in her garden until she experienced a stroke in July. Fortunately, she was still able to laugh and talk.
Garbelman was born in Gainesville, Nov. 7, 1937. Her family moved to Ruskin in the 1940s and established deep roots within the community.
The woman never met a flower she didn’t like. She loved visiting Palmer’s Orchids, where she’d spend hours among the flowers, talking to God and appreciating their beauty.
Her floral arrangements were magical. Purple was her signature color.
Garbelman served as president of the former Florida West Coast Florists Association and was a Master Designer who enjoyed competing in many orchid-design competitions with her mom and daughter.
Garbelman is survived by her three children, Gary Garbelman, Gail Roszel and Glenn Garbelman; their respective spouses, Connie, Brantz and Shannon; six grandchildren and their spouses; and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, Violet and T.R. Hovey, and many beloved aunts and uncles.
A skilled seamstress who used to make prom, wedding and bridesmaid dresses, Garbelman even made her own wedding gown and repaired “wounded” stuffed animals for her great-grandkids.
Her four rescued cats, whom she adored, are now being cared for by Roszel.
“Harriet had a tremendous sense of humor,” said the Rev. Hal Jeffery, pastor of congregational care at Ruskin United Methodist Church. “She was always happy, always smiling. Everyone loved her.
“I was honored to be part of her Celebration of Life, which was attended by more than 100 people,” he continued. “It was a happy time of memories.”