Florist honors veterans with red, white and blue

By Seraine Page

In Earl Bowers world, anything worth celebrating in life is done so with flowers.
That includes weddings, graduations, prom and other life milestones that come across as orders on Bowers desk at his Bremerton shop, Paul’s Flowers.
The owner also pieces together unique arrangements that most florists wouldn’t think of doing or don’t have the opportunity to do.
With the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial just up the way from his shop on Pacific Avenue, it’s hard to forget about the military town that surrounds him. His father and father-in-law both served in the Navy, and he also has a nephew who is active duty Army.
With that, he likes to give back to the community of veterans that penetrate the county. On 9/11, he’ll arrange a flower assortment for the memorial along with the flowers he gives out in the community to first responders.
“We feel it’s our duty,” he said of giving away the free red, white and blue flowers. “To me, I think patriotism is honoring those who have fought for our freedom.”
One of his most delicate and special moments, however, is when he does deliveries for family members to cemeteries. Many live out of state, and some just find the cemetery too painful to make a visit to in-person.
On Memorial Day, he usually visits 30 graves for customers, including a woman who has him drop off arrangements off twice a year, including Christmas.
“I love it,” he said. “I love to go to the cemetery. I think it’s great. I’m usually the one to do it myself because I can walk to everybody’s grave. I’m very happy to do that for people.”
Additionally, here and there, Bowers and his staff will drop off free arrangements to the Veterans Home in Retsil. And, in keeping with his patriotic pride, he also offers a 15 percent military discount to his customers.
Memorial Day through July 4, customers can easily find a steady supply of vintage red, white and blue nostalgic items inside his shop.
“I love Americana,” Bowers said while fixing up his patriotic vignette.
While arranging flowers brings Bowers and his employees much joy, there are the somber days that everyone remembers with pain one way or another. To ease that, and lift the mood a bit, the flower shop owner found a way to give thanks during a time of mourning for the country.
Starting in September 2002, he and his staff made up patriotic arrangements for delivery to first responder offices across the county.
They do it, he remarked, “just to be patriotic.”
During a difficult day for the nation as a whole, Bowers and his small staff felt the gesture might mean something to those who might otherwise think they were forgotten.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s lots of ‘thank yous’ and we get thank you notes in the mail, which you don’t often get anymore.”
The owner feels a strong tie to the military and its veterans, especially working in Bremerton. Because of his love for his hometown and its heroes, he visits cemeteries every Memorial Day, looking for the veterans he knows may have otherwise been forgotten among the orders.
He’ll sometimes bring flowers or small flags, placing each next to a veteran’s grave.
“It’s really more reflective,” he said, “and thinking of what those people did for us.”