Mail Call: May/June 2012
Letters to the editor written by GRIT readers include a tribute to Oliver Grote, a story about the importance of community and more.
Oliver Grote loved growing and sharing cockscomb flowers.
Courtesy Doris Grote
Remembering Oliver Grote
In our little town in the Texas Hill Country, we are quite accustomed to sharing with friends, family, neighbors — and even strangers. One of the locals whom people could always count on to share was Oliver Grote.
In 1978, Oliver opened Country Collectibles, an antique store located just north of the picturesque town square of Mason, Texas. During 30-plus years, Oliver acquired some very unique items: a dress worn by Barbara Mandrell; a 587-carat topaz, the state gem of Texas; and a 1928 Mack truck.
Many years later, Oliver developed a passion for a different kind of collectible: He began planting seeds in the landscape surrounding his two-story building.
Around 1996, Oliver planted the first seeds that produced cockscomb flowers of the deep red variety. He proudly displayed cuttings of his flowers inside Country Collectibles, and he was more than happy when visitors photographed them.
Over the years, Oliver’s supply of seeds for the red-headed cockscomb dwindled. So, he submitted a Friends & Neighbors letter to GRIT, which was printed in the November/December 2010 issue. He asked for 25 Celosia seeds — the big-headed cockscomb in red — in exchange for 50 seeds of the big-headed pale green variety. It didn’t take long for the first response to arrive, complete with a seed packet, a friendly note and photographs of breathtaking cockscombs. More than 60 replies were received, and Oliver exchanged letters and seeds from 21 states.
With Oliver’s health declining most of last year, he no longer operated the antique store, but he relentlessly visited as often as possible to nurture his treasure.
Oliver faithfully and joyfully reviewed the file containing every letter he had received in response to his seed request. He was sincerely touched by each correspondence. So, to everyone who sent him seeds, his family wants you to know that you brought delight to this 84-year-old gardener.
Oliver loved his family and led a life of caring for and helping others. He sowed into the lives of his wife, sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with extraordinary measure. While the physical evidence of planting seeds is seen in the cockscomb, the intangible seeds of integrity, generosity, encouragement and a sense of humor Oliver planted for his family are immeasurable.
Oliver passed away September 26, 2011, and there could not have been a more fitting tribute than the floral spray that adorned his casket — a vivid arrangement of red, pink, yellow and green cockscombs, all grown by his own hand and through the generous sharing of GRIT readers across the country.
Dorothy Grote and Courtney Grote Garrett
(Written at the request of Doris Grote, Oliver’s wife of 63 years, by daughter-in-law and granddaughter.)
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