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Tribute to a pioneer

June 28, 2008  By Greenhouse Canada staff

Jack Atkin was a true visionary in forging new market opportunities for flower growers

Jack Atkin receiving a Living Tribute Award from Cecil Delworth Foundation VP John Valk in 1998.

The Canadian plant industry lost a true giant with the passing of Jack Atkin on May 19 in Toronto.


Mr. Atkin, who has been retired from the industry for a number of years, was widely regarded as a pioneer and volunteer who helped flowers become a mass market product. He spent most of his career in Leamington, Ontario, where he carried on the family business, Atkin’s Flowers. It later became known as Yoder-Atkin, and eventually Yoder Canada.

He was one of the first flower producers to promote the sale of potted plants and cut flowers by major food chains and department stores. He advanced the year-round propagation and sale of chrysanthemum cuttings to North American markets, and started the direct sales business at Ontario Flower Growers.

Respectfully known as “Action Jackson” to many of his industry colleagues, Mr. Atkin dedicated himself to many organizations and projects. His tireless efforts were recognized time and again with numerous achievement awards. He was one of the founders of the Cecil Delworth Foundation and the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation, and was extensively involved in the work of Flowers Canada and the Canadian Horticultural Council. He served on the Royal Winter Fair board when they introduced an annual flower show.

“Jack was known as a very progressive man and innovator in the flower business,” said Flowers Canada Ontario marketing director Gary Gander, who worked with Mr. Atkin on a number of associations. He said Mr. Atkin pushed the concept of flowers in grocery chains and was instrumental in making flowers a high volume business. “He saw the opportunity to take flowers from being sold at a corner store and make it a product with mass appeal.” Gander added that Mr. Atkin was a “high energy person with great ideas,” and a “real, one–of-a-kind” individual.

jack2Bill Schwan, a former sales manager for Yoder Canada, was introduced to the floral industry by Mr. Atkin. The two worked together at Yoder Canada for some 35 years. “Jack was a real pioneer in the mass marketing of flowers,” he said. At a time when finding flowers in grocery stores was unheard of, Mr. Atkin was one of the first people in North America to see the potential and recognize what it could do for flowers. “He was an individual who had great foresight… His friendship with people was first class and he was welcomed and respected everywhere he went,” said Schwan. “He will definitely leave a hole in the floral industry.”

In the newspaper obituary, it was noted that, “Jack was always proud of the lifelong friendships he made along the way with so many people, including his colleagues, most of his clients, and his competitors. His life was about ‘caring and sharing.’ He will be remembered for his ‘power of positive thinking’ approach to life, his loyalty and friendship, the flowers he always had for everyone, and his lifelong ambition to make people smile.”

His family is setting up a “Jack Atkin Memories” website. They welcome those who knew him to e-mail their stories or photos to .

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