He might be turning 80 on Tuesday, but Boe Snipes is still young at heart.
Best known to locals as the ‘Boe’ of Boe’s Florist, on Entwistle 3rd, in Rockingham, he spends much of his time these days caring for his wife Diane.
“He sold the business to my brother, Eric, a few years ago, but he still makes flower arrangements,” said daughter Laura Clark, who helps her brother run the shop these days.”I think it’s just amazing that he’s 80 years old and still loves to work.”
“Oh, I just come in to be a part of it,” Snipes said. “I like to keep making the flowers because it keeps me busy.”
Snipes and his five children have made their homes around the little flower shop in East Rockingham.
“I can look out my windows and see all my children’s houses,” he smiled, pointing to each one in turn.
Family is something that’s always been near and dear to his heart.
He joined the U.S. Navy when he was 20, and served his country for four years. Upon his return, he discovered that his parents were out of a home, and had nowhere to live. He signed up for another six years of service, and sent most of his earnings back to his parents. After that stint, he planned to sign on again for another nine years but, once again, family took priority.
“I was back home for a vacation, and my mother got sick,” he said. “She ended up being paralyzed and I didn’t want her to go to a rest home. I decided not to re-enlist, but to stay and help my sister care for her.”
“I don’t regret it at all, because my life would not be like it is now — surrounded by the wonderful family I have — if I had gone away again,” he said.
“He’s always taught us that it’s important for us to help each other,” said Laura.
Snipes, not missing a beat, jumped in, “It’s like how they say ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ It’s not just family that’s important. Laverne Schultz, he owns Sandhills Office Systems now, he was a Boy Scout leader when my boys were in the scouts. He was a great leader, and really made me believe that helping others is important too. He was a big influence to them.”
Out of the Navy, Snipes picked up a job at J.P. Stevens, a textile factory, and worked to support his growing family.
“I’d go see a bootlegger a couple times a week — a little old woman,” he said. “Well, one night after I went to pick up a drink, I was getting ready to watch Fred Sanford (NBC sitcom “Sanford and Son”) and someone spoke to me.”
“Your soul is mine,” are the words Snipes heard.
“My life turned around that minute,” he said. “I wasn’t living right, you know.”
After phoning his sister in Detroit, who encouraged him to ask forgiveness, he decided to take his life in a new direction.
“We (Snipes and his wife) took the liquor money and went and got a pizza,” he said. “December 9, 1970, was the night I accepted the Lord.”
After that night, a co-worker at J.P. Stevens began commenting to Snipes that he could see a light over his head at night.
“He kept telling me that, and I made up my mind I was going to leave that job,” said Snipes. “It made me nervous. The man’s name was Carl. Today he’s a preacher at a church in Dobbins Heights, and he’s a wonderful person.”
Snipes did leave the job, and snagged another one at a grocery store where no one remarked about unusual lights above his head.
His wife’s father died in 1972, and the couple cleared the flowers off the grave after the funeral.
“We kept some silk ones, I just put them in a closet,” he said.
One day, as he was walking past the closet, Snipes said his heart felt moved to “make a flower.”
“I went to Roses (department store) and bought a basket for $1.19 plus five cents tax,” he said.
Once home, he anointed his hands with oil before starting to work on the project.
“Someone told me that if you’re doing something you really care about, to put oil on yourself for a blessing,” he said.
He dug the silk flowers out of his closet and created an arrangement in the basket. With two sons in tow, he headed out to try and sell the basket.
As fate would have it, a relative of a couple burying their child saw him walking out with the arrangement and wanted to buy it for the funeral.
“She asked me how much, and I said $4.50 — but she made her husband give me $7.50,” said Snipes.
From there, a business was born.
“I went out and bought three more baskets, and 42 years later I’m sitting here in the shop talking to a beautiful lady from the Daily Journal,” Snipes said with a smile.
It took time for Boe’s Florist to grow into the business it is today.
“It started in my house,” said Snipes. “There were times when people would pull up in limos and come in to look for flowers — and we were working off our kitchen table!”
“I think the secret to success is to always treat people like they’re somebody, and to do good work,” he said.
“I think my dad learned to really accept everybody for who they are when he was traveling in the Navy,” said Laura. “He met people from a lot of different cultures, and learned a lot. He always taught us growing up that we should love everybody the same — regardless of race, or how much money they make or any of that.”
“I bought the business in 2009, but I’ve been working here all my life,” said Eric who, like his dad, prides himself on good relationships with people. “We even have a good relationship with the other florists, Hillside and Joe’s. We all help each other out when we need it, and they even came to dad’s birthday party.”
Snipes says it’s “the man upstairs” who keeps him going. Even at 80, he’s still able to cut a rug with his signature “Boe dance,” a trademark move inspired by radio announcers at WLWL years ago.
He stopped his shuffling jig for a moment to add, “If I die tomorrow, it’s been a great trip.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.