John Diedrich: Flowering philanthropy

Shop owner’s spirit of giving sprouts in blooming business

In high school, John Diedrich worked at Locker’s Flowers in McHenry doing a little bit of everything – planting, working in the greenhouse, helping customers.

Years later, in 1991, after spending eight years as an accountant, he came back and bought the business, bringing with him a spirit of philanthropy.

When he was about grade school age, Diedrich was part of a neighborhood fundraiser for muscular dystrophy and would go around to businesses soliciting donations.

He knows what a challenge it can be, seeing firsthand that many larger corporations would not help.

“It’s an interesting process, especially when you’re younger, when you have people say no, they can’t help you,” Diedrich said. “It’s something you remember for a long time.”

So now, when someone asks for help, Diedrich takes it to heart.

Weekly, he donates an armload of flowers to be distributed to the ladies at Alden Terrace of McHenry, a rehabilitation and health care center.

Although the recipients know that the flowers are donated, they haven’t met Diedrich, who has never pushed to receive credit.

That’s not why he does it, he said, figuring that “it all comes back to me in the end.”

Because Locker’s is a larger shop, it has a full inventory of flowers at all times, Diedrich said.

He also has donated to Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome awareness center that his daughter has gone to, and supplies flowers for Faith in Action, which provides aid to senior citizens.

Someone from Faith in Action will call and say, for example, that there are eight birthdays coming up.

“[They] go to the house of each senior citizen and surprise them for their birthday,” Diedrich said. “For some of the people, that might be the only gift they get.”

Diedrich said he sees his generosity “as part of what we do.”

He hears stories of appreciation for what he does, such as when an elderly resident at Alden can’t travel to a wedding, but wants to celebrate the marriage nonetheless. Flowers can be a way to do that, taking a photo with a bouquet to send to the couple.

“I have taken photos of the ladies’ grateful smiles and made them up into a sort of presentation for John,” said the woman who nominated Diedrich, who declined to be named. “He was humbly appreciative, but I’d love to see his generosity more widely known. He is one of the quiet heroes that makes small-town living precious.”

He’s just happy, Diedrich said, to be part of a company that helps others experience the joy of receiving flowers.

The Diedrich lowdown

Who is he? Owner of Locker’s Flowers in McHenry.

Hometown: Raised in McHenry, lives in Johnsburg.

Family: Wife of 28 years, Anne, and four children, ages 24 to 13.

Favorite TV show: “Elementary.”

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