Poinsettias help Michigan family cope with tragic loss

In this Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 photo, the Pinter family, from left, Doc, Larry, Debbie, and Bob pose for a photo in a greenhouse at Pinter's Flowerland Greenhouse, in Ypsilanti Township, Mich. (Melanie Maxwell /The Ann Arbor News via AP)

ANN ARBOR — The inside of Pinter’s Flowerland Greenhouse is a waving sea of red this time of year.

Thousands of potted poinsettias rest on tables throughout several acres of greenhouses on the family property in Ypsilanti Township.

One poinsettia stretching toward the winter sunlight has special meaning for Debbie Blackmore this year. She feels the presence of her recently deceased brother in that particular plant, which grows a good 6 inches higher than the other poinsettias.

“I always believe that’s him looking over everything,” she said.

Blackmore’s brother Joe Pinter, 72, was the head grower at the family business and presided over the poinsettias with pride for decades, according to his family.

No one knew last Christmas would be his last crop, however. He died in September from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash.

“It was a shock to all of us,” said his son, Tim Pinter. “This is our first season without him.”

Tim, 47, is now caring for the 30,000 poinsettias without the father who taught him the trade.

He’s finding that growing the poinsettias is an antidote for his grief.

“The busier I am, the less I think about it,” he said.

There’s a portrait taken in the early 20th century hanging over the front door at Pinter’s showing the family’s Hungarian forbearers, according to Harry “Doc” Pinter, Joe’s oldest brother.

The family opened a truck stop and garden center on the property in 1926. Joe and his five siblings – Doc, 75, Bob Pinter, 67, Ron Pinter, who died in 2002 at 47, Larry Pinter, 58, and Debbie Blackmore, 57, – eventually took over the business.

The brothers lived in a row of houses on the property, just like their father wanted, according to Blackmore. They all took on various tasks at the nursery.