Roland's father, Albert founded the Nursery in 1930, and Roland grew up living in and working at Behnke''s. I always liked Roland. He left the military to become president of Behnke's, was there when I started in 1982, and continued in the position until he retired in 1995. Behnke's was a sizeable operation even then and Roland could, no doubt, have spent his time upstairs in his office, or out doing executive kinds of things, but that wasn't the way he rolled. You were at least as likely to see Roland with his toolbox as not. He repaired, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, ventilators, mechanical doors.... Hands on guy. And he ran the Nursery.
There's an old saw in retail, "the customer is always right" and the idea that if a customer has a good experience they likely won't tell anybody, but if they have a bad experience, they'll tell everybody they know. Roland stood up for employees if a customer was wrong and unpleasant. It took perception and courage to tell a customer that, "we don't need your business." I don't suppose he did it a lot, but it's definitely in the folklore. Both Karen and Pat brought it up as I reminisced with them. Personally, I don't think it cost Behnke's business either. We all know people who are continually getting into confrontational situations and while we may nod and sympathize when they tell their horror stories, I suspect we quietly reserve judgment. Roland never disallowed a legitimate grievance. Still, it's an uncommon thing for most clerks to have management stand up for them no matter how wrong the customer. It seems to be one thing everybody remembers about Roland.
The odd thing that sticks with me about Roland is his fascination....I resist the word obsession....with Live Oaks. He was always pestering us to find him sources for that iconic evergreen of the old south. At the time, I didn't attend too much to this curious fixation, but you know, I think that what with one thing and another, Llke global warming, and the issues that attend most of the other oak species, I have come around to the opinion that we ought to be looking seriously at this tree to become a significant component of our landscaping palette. I don't think I ever gave Roland enough credit. Sorry.
Memorial service Thurs, Feb 4 at 3pm at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Greenbelt.
6905 Greenbelt Road
Greenbelt, MD 20770-3301