The Rose Man rememberedROBIN WASHINGTON: I don’t think he knew it, but Kevin Ferris was my fashion guru.
I don’t think he knew it, but Kevin Ferris was my fashion guru.
As the spouse of a colleague, he attended many of the same DNT company functions I did, including some where I didn’t get the memo on appropriate dress. If a suit and tie seemed safe, the moment he’d appear at the reception for the symphony’s Beach Boys tribute — impeccably cool and color-coordinated in a blazer and open-neck shirt — I got my marching orders: “Lose the tie.”
Remember that the next time you fiddle with a Windsor knot. And remember Ferris, who at 48 lost his life too soon when the small plane he was flying went down in fog on Friday near the western Minnesota town of Hawley.
“He was just a nice guy, somebody you always could have a conversation with, a beer with, a glass of wine. Intelligent. Fun to be around,” said Ken Browall, the News Tribune’s publisher, who like me, met Ferris through his significant other, advertising director Roz Randorf, shortly after the couple’s move here in 2006.
Five years later, the couple surprised — though I wouldn’t say shocked — friends and colleagues with the announcement they’d purchased The Rose Man shop on Central Entrance in Duluth. They booked an advertising campaign (and yes, paid for it, like everyone else) and reinvented the shop in his dapper image. A small version of the ad appears on page F7 of today’s Scrapbook section, printed before the accident.
“It was Valentine’s Day (2011) when Kevin came into the shop and overheard a conversation from one of our salespeople that we were thinking about selling the place,” Al Penke, The Rose Man’s former owner, recalled Saturday of the man who had by then become a regular customer.
“One of first things he did when he moved to Duluth was to buy flowers for Roz,” he said, remembering clearly: “It was more than a dozen.”
After overhearing the conversation — which Penke said none of his employees ever owned up to — Ferris and Randorf made an offer, and Al and Margo Penke agreed.
The rest of the story is one for the roses.
“He fixed that place up. The place needed a face-lift,” Penke said. “They painted it and put flower boxes on the outside. I think he’s done a good job. He’s kept our name good in the community.”
So much so, that The Rose Man became synonymous with a new face.
“I was at a hockey game last night. Everybody knew who he was,” Browall said. “Knowing Roz as well as I do, her advertising and marketing savvy, I knew she had a vision, and Kevin was able to execute that vision and make it his own and be the brand. He had everything about it: the personality, the look, the whole thing.”
Ferris applied the whole thing in other areas of his life. After he and Randorf enrolled their son, Simon, at St. Michael’s Lakeside School, Ferris offered his sweat equity.
“He’d volunteer in the lunchroom and drive on field trips,” said Amy Flaig, St. Michael’s principal. “The kids liked him. He was just a gentle soul. He wasn’t one of those guys who had to rule with an iron fist.”
Ditto for his demeanor during his television career in Fargo and in Duluth, as a master control operator; a job that can lead some folks to get carried away with the word “master.”
“I always felt comfortable with his decision-making his skills,” said Kathy Coyle, a former anchor at Fargo’s KXJB-TV, where Ferris began working while still in his teens.
When he got to call the shots, she said, “He was working the audio, turning me on and off. It might sound crazy, but it’s nice to know there’s someone on the other end of that that you trust. That’s not always true in broadcast.”
He gave the same respect to those just starting out in their careers, said Manny Villanueva, a production assistant at Duluth's KBJR in 2009-10.
“One night I made a little video about Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven,’” Villanueva said from Austin, Texas, where he is now a videographer.
“I came into work the next day. Kevin said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to say I saw your raven video.’ I was taken aback by it. I didn’t post a link or anything, but he said he watched it and really enjoyed it. As a part-time worker, it warmed my heart.”
Northland’s NewsCenter anchor Kevin Jacobsen saw that in Ferris also, saying: “He was a genuine guy who will be missed by those who crossed paths with him.”
And going back to contemplate how their paths crossed was Penke, who last saw Ferris just before Valentine’s Day, when the old Rose Man bought bulk flowers from the new. On Saturday, he wondered again about how Ferris could have known his shop was for sale when the Penkes hadn’t announced it.
“Maybe it was divine that all of this took place,” he said. “Maybe it was just God’s timing.”
And maybe, too, the only explanation for the loss.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at email@example.com.
A prayer service will be held for Kevin Ferris at Boulger Funeral Home, Fargo, at 7 p.m. Monday. Visitation from 6 to 7 p.m. in the funeral home. Funeral at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Moorhead, Minn., at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.