Litchfield, CT -- Jan Simon Ohms, 85, died Friday, May 27, 2011 after a brief illness. He leaves behind his wife of 58 years, Faith van Slingerlandt Ohms, his sister Cornelie Verdonk (Noordwijk, Holland), his daughters Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms and her husband Sander van den Berg (Bantam, CT), Kristin McNamara and her husband William McNamara (Ridgefield, CT), Jamie Johann (Litchfield, CT and Key Largo, FL), and Wendy Hughes and her husband John Britton Hughes (Stratford, CT); his three grandchildren, Ryan Johann, Kaitlyn McNamara and Faith AnNa Hughes; his four step-grandchildren, Maarten van den Berg, Jochem van den Berg, Kristin Comer and Megan Seff; and many life-long friends and professional colleagues.
Mr. Ohms was born in Stamford, CT in 1925 with dual American and Dutch citizenship, son of Hendrik Jan Ohms and Johanna Dirkzwager of Holland. In 1929, their family returned to Noordwijk, Holland, heart of the Dutch flower bulb district in the dunes along the North Sea, where he later worked in the family's flower bulb nurseries and bulb fields. He earned a specialized degree in Ornamental Horticulture from the Rykstuinbouwschool in Lisse, Holland and served in the Dutch underground during WW II. After the war, he returned to the States and received a degree in Landscape
Architecture and Agricultural Economics from the University of Connecticut where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and the undefeated, National Champion 1948 All-American Soccer Team where he made the winning assist under coach Jack Squires. After serving as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force and Voice of America, Mr. Ohms settled in Stamford, CT with his family and started a private flower bulb company, Jan S. Ohms Inc., that sold flower bulbs to large private estates up and down the eastern U.S. coast. He was the third generation in the flower bulb business.
In the 1970s, Mr. Ohms acquired the fledgling Van Engelen flower bulb company through which he and his wife Faith launched its renowned wholesale flower bulb catalog. In 1991, Mr. Ohms brought the John Scheepers flower bulb company and its classic Beauty from Bulbs retail catalog back into the family~it was originally started by his uncle, John Scheepers, in 1908. The Van Engelen and John Scheepers flower bulb companies are among the largest importers of Dutch flower bulbs in the U.S. Over his lifetime, Mr. Ohms is credited with supplying close to a billion flower bulbs to botanical, public and private gardens across the United States.
Well-known for the quality and diversity of his flower bulb collection and personal expertise, Mr. Ohms served as a horticultural judge for the New York Flower Show, New York City's former International Flower Show and the Newport Flower Show, among others. In 1995, Mr. Ohms was honored by the Netherlands Royal General Bulbgrowers Association and Konijnenburg & Mark, Noordwijk, Holland, with the naming of Triumph Tulip Jan Ohms in honor of his outstanding achievements in the promotion and usage of Dutch flower bulbs in the U.S.
In 2002, the first issue of the John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog was published, satisfying Mr. Ohms' dream of making available to gourmet gardeners a full line of upscale, unusual flower, vegetable and herb seeds from around the world.
A man of tremendous personal strength, passion, conviction and zest for life, Mr. Ohms played the clarinet and soprano saxophone in the Dixieland jazz band Poorhouse Five Plus Two; was a member of the Litchfield Beautification Committee and an honorary member of the Litchfield Garden Club; loved to sail, play tennis, play bridge and cook; and was an avid animal lover.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Little Guild for the Welfare of Animals, 285 Sharon Goshen Turnpike, West Cornwall, CT, 860.672.6346, www.littleguild.org.
A reception to celebrate his life will be held at the Litchfield Country Club, 256 Old South Road, Litchfield, CT on Saturday, June 4, 2011 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Arrangements entrusted to Rowe Funeral Home, Litchfield.