Joyce Baker remembers it was still dark the day her late husband, florist Jack Baker, left Denton and headed to Dallas for what was sure to be a memorable day at work.
“He was really excited,” Baker said.
The couple had opened a small floral shop on Malone Street two years before but were still eight years from opening their famous shop, Jack Baker Flowers, on North Elm Street.
At the time, Jack Baker was still working for Pete Harris, owner of Flower Fashions and Interiors, one of the hottest florists in Dallas. He would help not only with the centerpieces to fill the dining hall at the Dallas Trade Mart that day in November 1963, but also with the bouquet of roses that would be presented to first lady Jackie Kennedy when she and President John F. Kennedy arrived at Love Field.
He had to strip and wrap the flowers, said Baker, who still lives in Denton.
Lindsey Keffer, who worked in the Bakers’ flower shop, didn’t help that day, but knew the story. Jack Baker’s connection to the Kennedys’ visit to Dallas has even become a bit of Denton folklore, one that has been altered a bit as it spread throughout the community over the past 50 years.
To set the record straight, Joyce Baker says that neither Jack Baker nor the delivery boy gave the first lady her bouquet, although her husband was sometimes able to deliver his creations directly to his most famous clients.
The couple’s children grew up with the story, and whenever they saw a photo of Jackie Kennedy holding the big bouquet of roses, they knew that their father had put the bouquet together.
They were Baccara roses, a hybrid tea variety introduced in 1954 by French grower Francis Meilland, which became popular for cutting, Keffer said. One variant of the deep red rose was named Jacqueline.
The way the rest of the day unraveled, however, underscored the Baker family’s true distance from those whose lives were changed because of the tragedy, Joyce Baker said.
Her husband didn’t come home for a long time that day. Traffic was terrible, he told her.
The florists had decorated the Trade Mart with thousands of yellow roses that they had to roll out in wheelbarrows.
“Did you see anybody?” she’d asked him.
“No,” came the reply.
He had noticed, though, that someone had brought a rocking chair for President Kennedy and that it sat, empty, behind the presidential seal at the head table.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.