Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Retired florist loved orchids, delivering 'singing valentines'

SPRING HILL — Residents of Timber Pines, an assisted living facility, are missing one of their favorite visitors.

Art Ellingsen, a gregarious florist who enjoyed nostalgic barbershop songs and the warm sentiments they can evoke, might have enjoyed the weekly singing sessions he led more than anyone.

Mr. Ellingsen, who sang bass with the Hernando Harmonizers for more than 20 years, died July 13 after a three-year struggle with multiple forms of cancer. He was 82.

Singing paralleled his two other great loves: his wife, Marion, and flowers.

The Hernando Harmonizers individual quartets have performed in schools and restaurants, bowling alleys and bars. A mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs recently found herself on the receiving end of a barbershop-delivered valentine, four gentlemen in tuxedos bearing intimacy and romance of nearly forgotten songs.

"There's always a lot of joy and sometimes some tears because it's an emotional thing for some people to hear these songs," Mr. Ellingsen told the Times in 2011. "It can be emotional for us, too, because we really get into the music."

Born in West New York, N.J., Mr. Ellingsen served in the Army and then embarked on his first career in the foreign distribution division of General Motors. After 22 years, he left GM to open a florist shop in Closter, N.J., and another in Teaneck, N.J..

In 1991, Mr. Ellingsen and his wife, Marion, retired to Spring Hill, where he joined the Hernando Harmonizers, a men's barbershop chorus. Around Valentine's Day, the larger chorus or quartets within it serenade up to 60 individuals or groups over three days, which raises money for uniforms and HPH Hospice.

Mr. Ellingsen relished the personal connections, including dropping to one knee and offering the intended recipient a rose.

"Art was really in favor of the chorus and quartets performing in nursing homes for people who were down and out," said longtime friend and fellow chorus member Gene Schuh, 74. "He said, 'They deserve to be entertained by us.' "

He showed up Tuesdays to lead residents in singing Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Heart of My Heart and other golden oldies. A resident who played the piano accompanied him.

At home, he delighted in arranging flowers but was less fond of gardening. "He would say, 'I'm never doing this again, it's too much work,'" said Marion Ellingsen, 81. "When spring came, he would have the flower garden again, because that was his love."

This past Valentine's Day, his quartet paid a visit to Mrs. Ellingsen, a nationally ranked bridge player, at the Nature Coast Bridge Club. His body weakened and leaning on a walker, Mr. Ellingsen serenaded his wife of 60 years with a number from The Music Man titled It's You.

"I was very emotional about it, as was everyone else in the bridge club," his wife said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2238.

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