Whether they are bouquets of colorful hues gracing church pews at a wedding or a small assortment sent to wish a friend well, flowers have the power to brighten our days.
On Wednesday, Dec. 22, Pleasanton resident Nora Elizondo celebrated 50 years as a florist at a retirement party held at Lesley’s Flowers & Gifts in Jourdanton.
Her career began when she was 25 years old. It was 1970 and Rillie Moseley, the owner of Rillie’s, was looking for someone to clean up the flower shop. Nora’s mother was approached, but wasn’t interested, so she told Nora to go.
“I had no knowledge of flowers,” said Elizondo. “So, I went and applied and they took me right away.”
She and husband Gabby celebrated 58 years of marriage in September. When she began working, their children, Ellen and Daniel, were 6 and 4 years old.
Elizondo started off in a part-time position, dusting and taking inventory. While she was two weeks into the job, she noticed there was much commotion in the workroom. The shop was handling a big funeral.
Ms. Moseley told Elizondo, “Come out here. You have to work.”
When Elizondo replied, “I can’t do that,” Moseley encouraged her and told her to never say the word “can’t.”
A fellow employee, Roy Moya, was trained by Moseley at a young age. He was an excellent designer who took Elizondo aside and taught her how to make bows and funeral sprays. She also learned from Rillie’s daughter, Anna Gillespie, who happened to be Elizondo’s classmate.
Over the years, Elizondo worked with many students in the school’s work program. They developed good designers such as Patty Holmes and Carol Godfrey. She later shared the names of other great designers she worked with throughout her long career.
“Carol, to this day, is still with me. And so, Carol was very young and very timid, and she would just stick to me,” said Elizondo. “What Roy and Ms. Rillie told me, is that’s how I passed it on to Carol.”
Moseley retired, leaving the flower business to her daughter. Elizondo’s husband was working at Schlumberger and she explained that since he was often gone, working would be difficult.
“So she gave me an option and I took it,” said Elizondo. “When Gabby was off, I was off, at least two days a week. Then I would work the rest of the week.”
When Gillespie retired, she asked Elizondo if she was interested in buying it, but she chose not to. Arlene Seay then took over, whom Elizondo worked for up to the 1990s. When Seay left, Cathy Smith and Pat Cox took over.
Over the years, Elizondo also worked for Mary Holmes when she had a shop in Jourdanton. She would alternate between the flower shops.
“Finally I made the decision to stay with just Mary and I worked with her until she decided to sell,” said Elizondo. “And that’s when Lesley [McMillan] took over.”
Lesley’s Flowers & Gifts then moved to the present location on Simmons Avenue in Jourdanton.
“It was a pleasure working with Lesley,” said Elizondo. “It was a lot of fun.”
Her most recent group of coworkers at Lesley’s includes Carol Godfrey, Kim Clifton and Melinda Rodriguez.
Elizondo described how, although flowers are beautiful, they require hard work and standing on your feet. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, such as cleaning buckets, getting your nails dirty and stripping the thorns off roses. Another difficult part of the flower business is the funeral part of it.
During busy seasons, such as Valentine’s Day, she would turn up some Cumbia music to pick everyone up. It helped to get the crew’s energy going and it kept them laughing.
Of all the different occasions that floral businesses prepare for, it is the fall season that Elizondo loves the most. She is drawn to the rich shades of orange, bronze and gold.
While she is sad to leave the business, she put much thought into it and feels that now is the right time.
“This job has been my life,” said Elizondo. “I had never had any other jobs and I never felt like I wanted to go anywhere else. I gave them all I could and they gave me all I wanted and that was to be with my children. I was able to clock out and go get them at school and come back. There aren’t many places where you can do that.”
She was also fortunate that when she worked, her mother would usually take care of the children. On days when she wasn’t able to and her husband was working, Elizondo brought them to work. She has fond memories of her children surrounded by ribbons, styrofoam boxes and flowers.
It is the many friendships she had with coworkers and customers that she will miss the most.
In a Pleasanton Express live video shared on Facebook at the retirement party, Lesley McMillan said of Elizondo, “This lady is absolutely, unbelievably talented, but beyond that, I have learned so much from her. We all have.”
They shared many tears the last week, McMillan added. She also spoke of Elizondo’s strong work ethic and upbeat energy.
Elizondo added that she loved everyone.
“I loved it because I did stay with it. There were some hard times, but all in all, I was very fortunate that I could do it,” said Elizondo. “I had great people that I worked with. My bosses– I thank them all. I enjoyed working with everybody.”