Florence Oberle, 98 years old, passed away at her home on River Road, Grand Rapids, Ohio on Friday, January 18, 2013. She was the widow of Edward N. Oberle.
Known in her hometown of Grand Rapids and throughout northwest Ohio for the beautiful gardens that encircled her home, and for her hospitality, Mrs. Oberle's home was the centerpiece and focus of her life. Anyone who stopped by to see her casually was sure to be served tea and a homemade dessert.
To satisfy a longtime desire to own a restaurant, Mrs. Oberle opened the spacious, award winning gardens to the public for teas in 1983. Word quickly spread and soon the gardens were blooming with groups enjoying her warm hospitality and luscious desserts. Many customers made reservations a year in advance. She cherished the 11 guest books signed by the hundreds of people who came to her teas and to tour the gardens. The signatures, always accompanied by a complimentary note, were of guests from all corners of the world. She gave up the teas and tours in 2003 when she was 89 years old.
Mrs. Oberle was an outstanding example of how to enjoy life to the fullest far into the senior years. She loved to entertain friends for lunch until shortly before her death and the menu always included one or two of her specialty desserts and tea.
In 1962 the Ohio Association of Gardens Club, Region 1, which includes 6 counties, named Mrs. Oberle the outstanding gardener of the year. In 1982 Grand Rapids Mayor Harry Jeffers presented Mrs. Oberle with a certificate of appreciation for the many years of maintaining and sharing the most beautiful gardens of Grand Rapids.
That her reputation as a gracious hostess spread far beyond the city limits of Grand Rapids is proved in the number of articles written about her flowers and gardens teas. Publications that featured Florence Oberle stories include Bend of the River, Kerr House, A Treasury of Recipes, Particular Places, a Traveler's Guide to Inner Ohio, Ohio Magazine, The Bowling Green Sentinel and The Toledo Blade.
A passion for baking inspired her to enter the retail market. She developed a packaged scone mix that was marketed by Churchill's and Gourmet Curiosities in Toledo. Mrs. Oberle also gave baking demonstrations at Gourmet Curiosities and drew record attendance.
She was born September 6, 1914, and was adopted by Carl and Anna Saltz Laskey along with her sister Margaret and brother Harold. Mrs. Laskey was her maternal aunt. She was the valedictorian of the class of 1932, Grand Rapids High School, and received a degree in elementary education from Bowling Green State University.
Mrs. Oberle's elementary teaching career began with two years at Milton Center School in Wood County. She retired from Washington Local Schools, Toledo, after teaching 39 years. She was proud of her Wood County ancestry. Her great grandmother taught school in Wood County before the Civil War.
On June 21, 1954, she married Edward N. Oberle of Grand Rapids. Gardening was a hobby the couple shared. Mr. Oberle preceded her in death January 18, 1965.
After her retirement from teaching in 1976, Mrs. Oberle became more active in the Grand Rapids community. She was awarded several blue ribbons at the Wood County Fair for her outstanding floral arrangements. She was secretary of the Grand Rapids senior citizens and planned many of the club's social activities.
She was a member of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, the Wood County Retired Teachers Association, the Grand Rapids Historical Society, and First Families of Wood County. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Grand Rapids for 60 years until in later years she turned to church services on television.
In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her parents; sister, Margaret Harner; brothers, Harold and Carl Laskey Jr. She is survived by cousins, a niece, and a large circle of friends.
Visitation for Florence will be at Wright-Habegger Funeral Home, 24084 West 2nd St., Grand Rapids, Ohio 43522, on Wednesday, January 23, 2013. from 1:00 p.m. until funeral services at 2:00 p.m. Interment services will follow at St. Patrick Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Ohio.
Any memorial contributions in Florence's name are asked to be made to the Grand Rapids Historical Society.
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Published in Toledo Blade on Jan. 21, 2013