Our industry has lost a long time NHLA member. Dave Sansom died in late November after years of decline due to Alzheimer’s Disease. I got to know Dave when I was forcing plants for flower shows at Lake Street Garden Center. Dave was a co-owner and plant specialist at New Hampshire Landscaping, one of the real players in the 1980s. NHL put on exhibits at the New Hampshire Flower Show, which was held at the Manchester Armory. NHL was heavily into Rhododendrons if I remember, and put on a wonderful exhibit. Dave was our contact at NHL along with Don Tordoff and they made a great team, full of knowledge and experience.
Later when Leslie and I were planning to start our nursery, we called Dave and Don and asked if we could meet with them in their Hooksett office for ideas of what we should be growing and directions we should steer our new company. They had all sorts of plant catalogs that they shopped from, and they went through them with me, circling the perennials that they used the most. It was very helpful in our planning and they couldn’t have been more accommodating.
The next spring New Hampshire Landscaping got a huge job that took them nearly two years to complete. Dave bought a lot of plants from us and really gave our fledgling company a boost. He gave me a tour of the site one day: not only was NHL skilled at stonework, their designs and plant choices were spectacular.
When we moved Van Berkum Nursery from Chester to Deerfield 31 years ago, we made one day a moving party. We had about 20 customers, mostly from New Hampshire, who brought trucks and helped us schlep plants to the new site. Dave and his wife, UNH Thompson School professor Dana, were right there with a couple of trucks, moving plants all day. They brought leadership and great spirit to the momentous task. We had pots of food in slow cookers in the basement of our newly built house and everyone came in out of the cold to get food and drink. A wonderfully tiring day, and a true sign of what an incredible industry this is.
When NHL disbanded about 20 years ago, Dave came to work for us. He drove our delivery trucks for years, and helped out around the nursery during the winters. Dave was the most loved plant delivery guy in the industry, I am sure. He was friendly, helpful to the customers, knew his plants, and could answer any questions. He got to know all of our customers. One north country customer had a big German Shepherd dog and Dave would share his sandwich with this dog when he dropped off plants. It got to the point that the customer faxed in orders (back in fax days), he would tell us what kind of sandwich his dog was in the mood for, and Dave would make sure he brought the correct sandwich. Now that is service!
Dave loved to come to New England Grows and work at our nursery booth. When a customer we did not know came by, they would politely talk to Leslie and I, but they’d break away to chat with Dave as soon as soon as they could. That was where the bond was, and we thought it was great.
Around the shop, Dave could build or fix anything. He was the ultimate planner of projects, spending a lot of time scratching his head and working stuff out on paper before he touched the tools. It drove me crazy at the beginning, but when he started the actual building, the project went smoothly and was always well made. Dave and I got to joking about this tendency. I approached projects differently and would often be halfway finished before he even started. But by the time he was done, I had begun ripping my project apart because mine didn’t work. Yes, Dave got in the last word and he loved that.
We truly missed Dave after he fell ill and could not work anymore. He was smart, creative, and one of the best company reps we have ever had. We even created a holiday card one year, featuring Dave in a Santa hat with the caption “Santa Dave delivers!”. With his partnership in NHL, his design talents, and his incredible work ethic, his passing has left a large hole in our industry. Rest in peace, Santa Dave.
by Peter van Berkum