Ervin Stutzman was in the business of nurturing gardeners’ dreams.
Geraniums. Seed potatoes. Rhubarb and tomato plants — he had them all.
Mr. Stutzman — who, along with his wife, Emma, started Stutzmans Greenhouse west of Hutchinson and ran the business until 1985 — died Friday. He was 96.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Cedar Crest Amish Mennonite Church in Partridge. The funeral will be 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church, 7213 W. Mills Ave. Burial will follow in West Center Amish Cemetery, next to the church.
Mr. Stutzman was born Sept. 2, 1921, in Thomas, Okla., and moved to Kansas in the 1940s.
The Stutzmans started the greenhouse in 1956 with just two rows of onions, according to the company’s Facebook page. In time, the greenhouse, about 5 miles southwest of Hutchinson on K-61 and US-50, became a gardener’s hub.
“It was the kind of place that you wanted to go to every spring to help you get going,” said Carolyn Smith, a longtime Bel Aire gardener. “It gave you hope and possibilities as well as being very practical and unique.”
Smith said Sunday that she and her friends would take separate cars each spring and make it a destination drive.
“You knew you were going to carry home a bunch of stuff,” she said. “You wanted a car with a big trunk. I never saw anyone go in there and not get anything. It’s not that we couldn’t purchase these plants anywhere else, but you knew it was always good quality and you could depend on it.”
And then, because it was next to Dutch Kitchen and not that far from Carriage Crossing in Yoder, it was almost always time for a meal or at least pie, Smith said.
In 1985, Stutzmans was purchased by Ben and Marlene Miller. Stutzmans now has 11 seasonal garden centers in Dodge City, Great Bend, Hutchinson, McPherson, Newton, Pratt and Salina and has four locations in Wichita.
After the sale, the Stutzmans started the Haiti Relief and Mission in Haiti and served as Mennonite volunteers for a decade. When they returned from Haiti, they continued to serve in the Mennonite church. In 2013, Mr. Stutzman was quoted by a newspaper reporter as saying he had worked on Mennonite Central Committee food programs since the 1950s.
He spoke of the fellowship of local church communities being brought together for the annual Mennonite Relief Sale each April in Hutchinson. The event has the feel of a festival and benefits thousands of people around the world with proceeds from the sale of quilts, food, crafts, plants, trees, tractors and other items.
Mr. Stutzman is survived by his wife of 74 years, Emma; their children, Mahlon Stutzman of Hutchinson, Virginia Ferguson of Rogers, Ark., Florence Gallaway (Mike) of Hutchinson; brothers, Clarence Stutzman (Bunny) of Wooster, Ohio, L. Perry Stutzman (Silvia) of South Hutchinson; 12 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to Haiti Relief and Mission Fund, in care of Elliott Mortuary, 1219 N. Main, Hutchinson, KS, 67501.