Norman A. Holt, who sold flowers from a small wooden cart on a vacant lot in Northwest Baltimore and later became one of the city's best-known florists, died Sunday of cancer at the Lorien Frankfort Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Northeast Baltimore. He was 86.
For more than 40 years, Mr. Holt owned, operated and designed elaborate floral displays at his business, the Norman A. Holt Florist Shop in the 3000 block of Liberty Heights Ave.
"He had a knack, a built-in ability to work with flowers," said Richard Traversari, a longtime friend. "He was a very gracious person, a very gentle person. He was also good with flowers."
Over the years, Mr. Holt's display window became somewhat of a landmark for the Hanlon Park and Mondawmin communities, as the floral exhibits were changed to go with each season and holiday.
"His place was always one of the neighborhood's best-kept-up businesses. He added a lot to the area," said James Wooten, who has lived in the community for 20 years. "Mr. Holt was a good man who ran a good business."
A Baltimore native whose parents owned a flower shop on Carey Street in West Baltimore, Mr. Holt served in the Army from 1943 to 1946 during and after World War II and was stationed in France.
Mr. Holt, who lived in Towson and later in Middle River, got the idea for a flower shop after seeing many shops in France.
"On the streets there were stalls and stalls of flowers, arrays of flowers about a foot high," Mr. Holt said in a 1996 interview with The Sun. "That scene stuck in my mind when I came back home."
He started his business in 1946 with a bucket of flowers for sale on a vacant lot where the business now sits. Next came several buckets of flowers and later a cartload of flowers, which he called The Little Flower Mart.
In 1957, the building at Liberty Heights Avenue and Dukeland Street was erected, and the business's name was changed to the Norman A. Holt Florist.
"He liked retail business. He liked working and came in every morning at 7 a.m., he didn't know anything else," Mr. Traversari said. "He liked being around people."
Martha Hopkins of Westminster, Mr. Holt's niece, said he was known and liked throughout the community. "He was always generous and sometimes gave flowers away," she said. "That's the kind of person he was."
Mr. Holt retired in the early 1990s.
Services were held yesterday.
Mr. Holt's wife, the former Sophia Newton, whom he married in 1969, died in 1986.
He is survived by two brothers, Earl P. Holt and Ernest Holt, and a sister, Elizabeth M. Huntzberry. All are of Baltimore.
Pub Date: 6/12/98