Frances Marlow Lemoine, 84, owned floral business

April 30, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Frances Marlow Lemoine, who in her six decades in the floral business created arrangements for Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Windsor, died Sunday of cancer at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson. The former Ruxton resident was 84.

Several generations of brides, debutantes and party planners sought her advice. In a 1961 Evening Sun article, she said she would create a debutante's corsage based on the girl's complexion and the cosmetics she wore. She believed in creating a flower arrangement to fit her customers, and regularly asked multiple questions to better understand their personalities.

Born Frances Foote in Baltimore, she developed a love of country flowers as a child while visiting her Shipley relatives in rural Carroll County. She was a descendant of Adam Shipley, an early Maryland settler who amassed an Anne Arundel County tract known as Shipley's Choice.

Raised on Purdue Avenue in Govans, she was a 1938 Eastern High School graduate and earned a design degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

She went into the flower business in 1939 at the old Sewell's on Charles Street and later managed a florist shop at the Belvedere Hotel, where she made corsages and arrangements for actors and other notable persons.

"She wanted top-quality flowers and was willing to pay for them," said Tom Flowers of Hereford, a retired wholesale flower salesman with whom she traded for 40 years. "She ran her business very well."

When Wallis Warfield Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, made her first visit back to her native Baltimore after marrying the Duke of Windsor, Mrs. Lemoine, at the duchess' request, designed a huge bouquet of white orchids.

In the 1961 article, she recalled that her most challenging assignment was devising a bouquet for Queen Elizabeth, who by rules of royal etiquette may not wear a corsage.

She used a bouquet of yellow mums plaited with blue, yellow, white and green streamers for the queen's October 1957 visit to a University of Maryland-North Carolina football game at College Park.

She was an avid outdoorswoman, and as a young woman, she hunted, fished and later enjoyed field work with hunting dogs. Family members said she would scour the Baltimore County countryside in search of wildflowers and greens to give her arrangements a distinctive touch.

"She had an outstanding touch in her wildflower arrangements," said Carol Bliss, a Caldwell Banker branch vice president. "I sent hundreds over the years, and the recipients always liked them."

In 1966, after working at Radebaugh's on Towson's Burke Avenue as a designer, Mrs. Lemoine opened her own shop, Frances Marlow Florist, on Falls Road in Brooklandville, which she sold in the mid-1990s.

"Always discreet, she never divulged a customer's confidence. She took a lot of secrets to her grave," said her son, Towson attorney William F.C. Marlow Jr. "She would often send out two sets of bills, one to the home and one to the office."

In living up to her slogan, "As usual, expect the unusual," she imported flowers from around the world. She was featured in news articles, and her first day of retirement in 1995 was covered by WMAR-TV. Until two weeks ago, Mrs. Lemoine was still preparing arrangements for old customers.

"Many a student at St. Paul's and other area schools relied on my mother not only for prom flowers but for their first jobs as delivery boys," her son said.

Mrs. Lemoine lectured to local garden clubs and made numerous trips to England to visit gardens.

She was a member of the Shipleys of Maryland organization and an active member of the Baltimore chapter of the Quota Club, an organization dedicated to promoting and mentoring women in business.

Services were held Wednesday.

In addition to her son, survivors include four grandchildren. Her 1943 marriage to William F.C. Marlow, a real estate broker, ended in divorce. She married Oscar M. Lemoine Jr., a Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. trust officer, who died in 1976.

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