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Arne M. Thirup, former president at Pajaro Valley Greenhouses, dies

Arne M. Thirup, the former president at Pajaro Valley Greenhouses, Inc. in Watsonville, CA, died peacefully on Feb. 21 at the age of 90.

Mr. Thirup was born and raised in Denmark, one of six children of a greenhouse operator, according to a news release. He was educated in the field of horticulture, came to the United States in 1953 for an internship program in Indiana, and eventually made his way up to San Francisco.

ARNE-THIRUP He met Pauline in San Francisco, a recent German immigrant, and they married shortly thereafter. Early in their marriage they worked their day jobs, he as a gardener and she as a nanny, while the evenings were spent tending to their one-acre flower parcel. It was from those humble beginnings that they built Pajaro Valley Greenhouses, Inc., a successful flower growing business that included locations in Watsonville, Nipomo and Vista, CA, as well as floral wholesale outlets in Atlanta, Knoxville and Nashville.

“Arne was a true pioneer in American cut flower production,” said Red Kennicott in the release, chief executive officer at Kennicott Bros. Co. in Chicago. “Arne’s friendly personality and his willingness to share resulted in him becoming a mentor to many, as he established standards to which others aspired.”

Mr. Thirup served on numerous boards and held office positions for many regional and national floral industry organizations, including president at Roses Inc.; treasurer at the Society of American Florists; chairman at the Monterey Bay Flower Growers Association; chairman at the Floral Trade Council; and commissioner and treasurer at the California Cut Flower Commission. In 2001, he was inducted into SAF’s Floriculture Hall of Fame.

In 1987, Thirup became one of Greenhouse Grower magazine’s earliest honorees as Grower of the Year for his activism supporting fair trade in cut flowers. And in 2001, he was inducted into SAF’s Floriculture Hall of Fame.

“Dad lived his life for the floral industry and his family,” said his daughter Karen Sambrailo in the release, who remembers watching her father walk through the greenhouse early in the morning and accompanying him at night, armed with a flashlight, to turn on the boiler.

“So many of my best childhood memories are of him growing flowers, talking about flowers. It really was his passion.”

Mr. Thirup is survived by his wife of 64 years, three daughters, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.