Alfred Cornelius Sillem, a long-time Victoria resident well-known for his colourful floral bouquets that earned him the nickname “The Flowerman,” has died. He was 77.
Alfred passed away Friday afternoon, according to his oldest son Nik Sillem, who attributes his death to natural causes. He leaves behind several children and grandchildren.
Locals and visitors alike to B.C.’s capital may remember Alfred stopping by downtown restaurants, bars and hotels, wearing a tuxedo and selling flowers. His travelling florist business first bloomed 40 years ago after he immigrated from Holland in 1968.
Nik tells CHEK News his father’s legacy will live on as highly respected. He took his occupation seriously, going from venue to venue with ease and a smile — a work ethic that was passed on to his children, who would help out from time to time.
“I sold flowers when I was 19. He put me in a tuxedo,” Nik recalled, noting Alfred’s predeceased wife, Susan, and his other kids, Dan, Kris and Janet, also learned the ropes.
“He supported a family,” he said. “On weekends, when he had to sell lots of flowers, he would pay us to prepare them by wrapping them in plastic. There’s a lot of history involved.”
Pagliacci’s was one of Alfred’s favourite spots and Solomon Siegel, the restaurant’s general manager, got to know him quite well.
“He’d come in, he’d walk around the restaurant, talk to people, talk to the staff. I’d always sit and chit-chat with him for a little bit,” Siegel told CHEK News.
“It was like half-work, half this beautiful social butterflyness of him.”
Dixie-Rae Lee met Alfred at a Victoria bar more than 30 years ago. Although she eventually moved out of province, their friendship continued to flourish.
“He was very charismatic, you know. It wasn’t just the sell of the flower. He really invested time with people. He was a very kind person and fun and funny. You were drawn to him,” said Lee.
“It wasn’t hard to be Alfred’s friend.”
According to Nik, Alfred did all the floral preparations in his basement. He had a specific route he travelled for decades to conduct his business, often working into the wee hours of the morning. He decided to call it quits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
News of Alfred’s passing has quickly spread to social media, where people continue to share their memories of him and condolences to his loved ones. Hundreds of commenters have paid their respects via Facebook, and Nik says the support does not go unnoticed.
“It’s overwhelming, to say the least,” he added.