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Duluth 'Rose Man' killed in western Minnesota plane crash

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The dapper gentleman known in Duluth newspaper ads as The Rose Man was killed in the crash of a small plane Friday near Fargo on a flight from Superior.

The Rose Man
Kevin Ferris, owner of The Rose Man, removes roses from a package to check them for quality before putting them out for sale at the store in May 2011. (News Tribune file photo)

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The dapper gentleman known in Duluth newspaper ads as The Rose Man was killed in the crash of a small plane Friday near Fargo on a flight from Superior.

Kevin Ferris set off on a solo flight from Superior's Richard I. Bong airport Friday morning with plans to visit his parents in Moorhead for Easter weekend. Authorities believe foggy conditions led to either a crash or a failed emergency landing. The plane was found in a field outside of Hawley, Minn., late in the afternoon. He was scheduled to land in Moorhead, 23 miles to the west.

Ferris owned the flower shop on Central Entrance with his partner, Roz Randorf, who is also the advertising director at the News Tribune.

Ferris, 48, is a native of Moorhead. He decided to enter the flower business in 2011 after leaving his master control job at Duluth's KBJR TV. He had worked at a station in Fargo before that.

Randorf said she didn't worry about Ferris piloting small planes from Superior to Moorhead.

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But Friday afternoon, she got a call from friends at the Superior airport. They told her Ferris' rented plane was missing. He had taken off at 9 a.m.

He was found dead by Clay County authorities late Friday afternoon after his airplane was spotted.

"You kiss him goodbye and you don't think you won't see him again," Randorf said Friday night on her way to Moorhead, where both she and Ferris lived until moving to Duluth seven years ago.

His family last heard from him when he was flying over Park Rapids, about 60 miles east of Hawley and 150 miles west of Superior, Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

The last contact of any sort was made around 10:15 a.m. near Detroit Lakes, Randorf said.

The Clay County Sheriff's Department began helping with a search for the missing plane when the first call came in around 12:30 p.m., Bergquist said.

Bergquist said a search plane spotted the wreckage from the air about 4:15 p.m.

Randorf said she began the long drive to Moorhead after she learned Ferris' plane had been found, staying in constant contact with Ferris' mother, Sharon, and hoping rescuers would find Ferris alive.

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She received a call from the sheriff's office after searchers located the single-engine, two-seat Cessna.

Bergquist speculated that Ferris may have tried to land the plane because of the fog. Fog also complicated search efforts, he said, as the aerial search didn't start until midafternoon. The crash site was difficult to see from nearby roads.

Ferris was a Moorhead High School graduate who has a 10-year-old son, Simon, with Randorf and is also the father of Michael Ferris, 23, and Brandon Ferris, 20. He is also a stepfather to Randorf's 21-year-old son, Spencer Pitzel.

After working 25 years at KXJB-TV in Fargo, Ferris moved with Randorf to Duluth in 2006.

In a Valentine's Day interview last year on KBJR, Ferris gushed about Randorf and his adopted city.

"I moved here, I'm a transplant and the reason I'm here is because of ... romance," he said. "My fiancée moved here first and so I followed her and I've always wanted to live in Duluth. It's the most beautiful city. It's so cold up here that you need to share life with somebody who's warm and keeps you warm."

Randorf said Ferris had always wanted to be a pilot and earned his license two years ago after learning to fly at a Superior flight school. The plane Ferris was flying was registered to Superior Flying Services.

"He wishes he would have started flying earlier in life," Randorf said.

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She said the couple usually made the drive together back to Moorhead, but the short plane trip between Duluth and Moorhead was an appealing reason for Ferris to learn to fly.

"He was a good pilot. He took it seriously, he understood how to route a flight plan. He was very conscientious. He wasn't foolish when it came to the mechanics," she said.

Friday morning, nothing struck Randorf as out of the ordinary. The couple had joked that Randorf would be working at the shop for Ferris. She said Ferris kissed her goodbye as he usually does and she expected to see him Sunday. The family had Easter buffet reservations at the Superior airport.

Randorf said Ferris will likely be remembered for his kindness and gentle touch that reached far past his rose shop.

"He was a great businessman. We were increasing sales at the shop," Randorf said. "(He was) a real gentleman, very giving."

Bergquist said investigators will likely be at the crash site again today. Authorities did not officially identify Ferris on Friday as the victim of the crash.

Funeral arrangements are pending, Randorf said.

Forum reporter Charly Haley and News Tribune reporter Mike Creger contributed to this report. Creger may be reached at news@duluthnews.com

Pilot from Duluth killed in plane crash
Kevin Ferris, known in his hometown of Duluth as "The Rose Man' was killed when his small plane crashed. He was on his way to visit his parents in Moorhead for Easter. Forum News Service

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