JOHNSTOWN - Bruce and Jennie Mrha have been making flower arrangements for decades.
When they closed their 44-year-old business - the Colonial Flower Shoppe on Jansen Avenue - six years ago, they didn't stop.
The Mrhas, of Prindle Avenue, recently returned from the 29th World Flower Council Summit, which took place Oct. 2 through 6 in the fishing village of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Floral designer Bruce Mrha of Johnstown, shown with one of his floral creations at his home Friday, recently returned from the World Floral Council Summit in Mexico.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
The non-competitive summit is a show of talented floral designs, and Bruce Mrha showed off his "country" category design as one of the entries from the United States.
"It's our vacation," Jennie Mrha says of the couple's annual involvement in the worldwide flower events.
Last year, the Mrhas went to the World Flower Summit in London, and next year, they might go to the summit in Japan.
In previous years, the Mrhas went to summits in Thailand, China and Vietnam, among others.
Jennie Mrha said the World Flower Council is an international organization that "promotes peace and flowers around the world."
During her years at the flower shop, she helped her husband run the business and write orders.
Bruce Mrha, 78, said he was asked by the World Flower Council's chairman if he would "please represent the United States of America" at the flower summit in Mexico. He said several Americans attended the summit, but he was the only floral designer chosen for the country category.
Since closing his shop in 2006, Bruce Mrha said he's remained active in the world of flowers.
"I do judging at the Capital District Floral Show at Hudson Valley Community College in the spring," he said.
He said he also helps other flower shops as a floral designer for businesses between here and Schenectady and locations downstate. He also works as an associate for the Walrath & Stewart Funeral Home in Gloversville.
For the World Flower Council Summit in Mexico, Mrha did an arrangement representing the United States with America's colors that extended 50 inches high. The arrangement included red gerbera daisies, white lilies and roses and a baseplate with blue short delphiniums. The arrangement was showcased by a wrapping of red, white and blue stars, with small lights on the vase.
He was assisted by a Georgian floral designer and received a Certificate of Presentation for his work at the world show.
Mrha also made table arrangements for the show. They included bird of paradise flowers, white lilies and lavender liatris.
"It was just quite an honor at my age to demonstrate what I could do compared to the young people," he said.
According to the World Flower Council website, the global organization is "dedicated to furthering the cause of world peace through the beauty of flowers and the sharing of knowledge among those who have chosen the floral industry as their profession or their passion."
In 1983, council founder Juzaburo Sekiye had a dream of furthering the cause of world peace through sharing a love and knowledge of flowers - "making a flower the symbol of peace and culture without regard to country boundaries," the site says.
The council is a membership organization for "everyone and anyone who has ever touched or been touched by a flower," the site says.
Count the Mrhas as those who have been touched by flowers. They said they met florists from all over the world at the Mexican summit.
"They're there to share their expertise," Jennie Mrha said.
She said the latest acquaintances they've made were from Malaysia, Singapore, Russia and Canada. She said the Mexicans "put on a whole show" at the event, not only with flowers representing their native land, but with a fishing event, dance and a fashion show.
Bruce Mrha said a Mexican floral wholesaler brought in many of the flowers needed for the show.
"We brought in some of them, but most of them we were able to get local," his wife said.
Bruce Mrha learned what became his life's work with flowers at a very early age growing up in Corfu, a village in Genesee County. He said he would help his dad, who was a horticulturist in that area. After a stint in the Marine Corps, he graduated from the American Floral Art School in Chicago in 1956 and began working in this area.
He eventually gained more expertise in floral design, and by 1984, he had gained the highest award from the American Institute of Floral Designers.
"I feel I like to do a contemporary style," Mrha says of his work.
He said that when he works on floral arrangements, he'll often notice that as he's working, "all of these things have come together for me."
He said he often thinks of his arrangements as "works of art," and he wouldn't trade his passion for flowers for anything.
"It's been a lifelong, wonderful ride," Mrha said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.