ST. PETERSBURG — As children, sisters Marie Sonn and Delma Booth would pick straw flowers from a field and sea oats from the beach, color them with Easter egg dye and create floral arrangements.
For Sonn, it was a childhood hobby. Mrs. Booth made a career of it.
She’d go on to open St. Petersburg-based Delma’s Flower Booth at a time when it was uncommon for young women to own their businesses. She grew the place into a shop that did far more than floral arrangements.
“She created art,” said sister Sonn, 85.
Booth would fill “every nook and cranny” of a room with plants, flowers and trees, Sonn said. For nearly 50 years, she turned the St. Petersburg Yacht Club into a winter wonderland that people from throughout the area would drive to see.
Mrs. Booth died Nov. 16 of a stroke, her sister said. She was 89.
Mrs. Booth’s niece Stephanie Anderson will continue to operate Delma’s Flower Booth, 2448 Fifth Ave. N in St. Petersburg.
“She would want to be remembered as someone who would do anything for her customers,” said Anderson. “She just wanted to make them happy. It made her happy to see them happy.”
When a bride and groom wanted to be showered with rose petals following their vows, Ms. Booth and her carpenter husband Wally Booth built a contraption to make it happen, Anderson said.
In February 1987, according to Tampa Bay Times archives, Mrs. Booth created an entire tropical forest for an event at the yacht club.
She “hung oak branches from the ballroom ceiling with orchids and bromeliads on them," the Times reported. “Giant arrangements of anthuriums and other tropical flowers bloomed on the tables."
“She did everything big,” said her son James Booth, 60.
Born in Oxford, Fla., to Jeffie and Beulah Nichols, Mrs. Booth was in seventh grade when she moved with her family from Ocala to St. Petersburg.
While attending St. Petersburg High School, Mrs. Booth had a teacher, Mrs. Price, who recognized her artistic ability and guided her to the floral business, niece Anderson said. “It was a perfect match. She never thought of doing anything else.”
Mrs. Booth worked for other floral shops in the area before venturing out on her own in 1954.
Customers she had worked with promised to go with her, according to news archives, and old bosses provided equipment and help with deliveries.
“She was a pioneer,” son James Booth said. “This was the early 1950s. It was a man’s world. There weren’t many women with their own businesses. But she did it.”
A few years later, she met Wally, whose carpentry skills were the perfect complement to Mrs. Booth’s artistic vision, her son said.
“She’d come up with the darnedest ideas and he’d build it,” he said. “If my dad couldn’t build it, it couldn’t be done.”
Soon, she was the go-to florist for socialite weddings and major events in St. Petersburg. Her annual calling card was the yacht club’s winter display.
One year, she had an old-fashioned living room with a fireplace built from scratch in the ballroom, he said, and another year they turned the club into a toy store.
In 2004, Mrs. Booth imported 70 Christmas trees from North Carolina and used over 49,000 lights for the event.
Each tree was different.
“Some had kids’ stuff, some had white lights, some had purple lights, some represented different countries,” her son said.
The yacht club began using different decorators in 2010.
Mrs. Booth retired from full-time duties at Delma’s Flower Booth a few years ago because of her health, her sister Sonn said. Her husband died in 2016. She spoke often about how she missed the business every day.
“Her customers meant everything to her,” Sonn said. “She loved making pretty things for them.”
Born: Nov. 1, 1930
Died: Nov. 16, 2019
Survived by: Son, James; three granddaughters, Tiffany Sabiel (Keith), Ariel Booth, Lexi Booth; sister, Marie Sonn.
The service has been held.