Jan S. Ohms, one of the Dutch flower bulb sector's most respected elder statesmen, died Friday, May 27, after a brief illness. He was 85. Ohms was CEO of three American direct mail order gardening companies: Van Engelen, Inc.; John Scheepers, Inc.; and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, LLC, all of Bantam, Conn.
His was a fascinating and varied career that ranged from service in the Dutch underground during World War II, to service in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer during the Cold War, to his more than 60-year involvement in horticulture and flower bulbs in the United States and Holland.
"Jan Ohms was one of the last great men standing," said Eric Breed, a Dutch flower bulb expert in Lisse, the Netherlands. "I first met him in 1983. He was one of a generation of giants, the post-war bulb sellers who built profitable businesses and a world industry on the principal of high-quality and customer loyalty."
Well-known for the quality and diversity of his flower bulb collection and personal expertise, Ohms served the industry in many capacities over the years. He was a horticultural judge for the New York Flower Show and for New York City's former International Flower Show, among others. In 1995, he was honored by the Netherlands Royal General Bulbgrowers Association when the Triumph Tulip 'Jan Ohms' was named in honor of his "outstanding achievements in the promotion and usage of Dutch flower bulbs in the U.S."
Ohms leaves behind his wife of 58 years, Faith van Slingerlandt Ohms; his sister Cornelie Verdonk, of Noordwijk, the Netherlands; four daughters, Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms of Bantam, Conn., Kristin McNamara, of Ridgefield, Conn., Jamie Johann, of Litchfield, Conn. and Key Largo, Fla., and Wendy Hughes, of Stratford, Conn.; three grandchildren, Ryan Johann, Kaitlyn McNamara and Faith AnNa Hughes; and four step-grandchildren, Maarten van den Berg, Jochem van den Berg, Kristin Comer and Megan Seff.