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Sowing Joy: Rodger Ansardy A Tale Of A HappyMan And The Hanging Baskets

Mar 18, 2024 08:41PM ● By E. Senteio Photography By Lynn Bohannon

Rodger keeps the flowers beautiful and fresh by deadheading spent blooms

Rodger Ansardy is a happy man. He’s also as unique as the spelling of his name. If you’ve visited the town center in Woodstock, Vermont, you’ve likely seen him. A self-proclaimed Gabby Hayes look-alike with his long white hair and a beard that reaches his chest, he’s hard to miss.

It’s possible you saw him taking his daily stroll through town with his constant Cairn Terrier companion, Pepe. However, chances are you spotted him pulling a metal wagon filled with the accouterments of his job as Horticultural Enhancement Specialist for the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce. But you may think of him as the flower guy.

The Job

At 73, Rodger is as vibrant and colorful as the flowers he nurtures. He took it upon himself to water the 34 hanging baskets when, during COVID, he noticed they were dying. “I couldn’t just let them die,” he says. Did people wonder who this man was who just up and started watering the town plants? “No. Everybody knew me. I’m in town every day, rain, snow, sleet, or shine, 365 days a year, walking Pepe.”

Shortly after his impromptu plant watering, Rodger’s position became official. Ask him what he does, and he says, “I water, deadhead, and fertilize all the hanging baskets of plants and flowers you see on the posts in town.” He does more than that.

On an average day between May through October, Rodger lugs 72 gallons of water. His route covers Central Street and Elm Street to the bridge. He also cares for the flower baskets that adorn the outside of the Chamber of Commerce. Since he makes his own schedule, he likes to start early. With one stop to refill his water jugs, that’s a total just shy of 600 pounds of water he hauls in his wagon every day. Rodger laughs, “It’s exercise and cheaper than going to the gym. I go up and down the ladder with a one-gallon jug, sometimes four times for each post because I have to put two gallons in each plant when it’s really hot.”  The Flowers On a walk through town, you are greeted and surrounded by the big, beautiful hanging baskets Rodger nourishes and protects. They add an endearing sense of charm and distinction to Woodstock town center. Each basket overflows with “base flowers” of red begonias, purple petunias, and white bacopa. Vibrant greenery fills out the basket, their tendrils sway in the wind, waving hello and welcoming you to town. The array of brightly colored flowers and greenery are all grown by the Woodstock Union High School horticulture program.

To Rodger, “It’s all about the colors.” He not only cares for the flowers, but he and Pepe enjoy them just as much as everyone else when they take their daily walks. “I like making the town beautiful. I like doing beautiful things. Locals say they always wondered who did this. Now they know.”

The People

As Rodger walks and waters, he also sows seeds of connection; he nurtures relationships. Quick with a smile, directions, restaurant recommendations, suggestions of fun places to visit, and sights to see, he’s basically a one-man welcome and info center. “I like people. I probably talk to at least a hundred people a week.” He’s not surprised by what longtime Vermonters and visitors alike share with him; he’s delighted.

“They talk about joy, birth, death. Anything from the most intimate details to the general.” Rodger laughs, as he often does: “My record is a conversation at every post. And people take my picture all the time. When I’m just standing there, on the ladder watering plants, or selfies with their arms around me.”

Why are people so drawn to him? “I make myself very approachable. And I have some tricks that make people want to talk to me.” Amused, he shares them like a funny secret. “I say ‘Hi!’ or ask, ‘Are you having fun?’ ” That’s enough to get a conversation flowing. He also gives marriage advice if people ask. And he might know a thing or two. He and his wife Cindy will celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary this year. All advice, he says, is free. He credits Cindy with helping to cultivate his green thumb. “I was more into vegetables, and she was more into flowers.”

The Road to Woodstock

Rodger isn’t a native Vermonter, but once he arrived, he couldn’t leave. Literally. On a road trip with a friend from Brooklyn, New York, he recalls, “My van broke down. I had $80 in my pocket. I had never even heard of Woodstock. Now I’ve been here for 53 years.” During that time, he married and raised two children, which he says he really enjoyed. “We always had a ton of kids at the house.” And something else Rodger mentions casually: he also beat cancer. During his battle, Cindy gave him Pepe. In the six years since, Rodger says, “Pepe’s record for being apart from me is maybe seven hours.”

Well Liked, Good at Sports

Over the years, Rodger has also done various jobs, including bartending at night, maintenance and groundskeeping, site manager at Hanover High School, and driving a school bus. After working 17 years for a homeowners association in Killington, Rodger retired. “I used to care for over a hundred indoor plants across the properties.” But Rodger prefers to be outside, and retirement doesn’t suit him. “I like to stay busy. If I didn’t, I’d be a full-time hermit instead of an 80 percent hermit.” That’s hard to imagine about a man who laughs easily and would like people to say, “He was well liked and good at sports.”

While not as athletic as he once was, and since a bout of vertigo quashed his recently acquired pickleball skills, Rodger has fond memories of playing in various baseball, softball, and volleyball leagues. He also enjoyed skiing and cycling.

Now, in his quest to stay busy and help the community, in his off-season from caring for the flowers, Rodger warms the hearts, feet, and hands of those who attend the annual Woodstock Wassail Weekend in December. “I maintain the fires. Sometimes people—especially visitors—don’t realize how cold it can be, so they gather around the fires to warm up.” Rodger makes sure to keep the flames blazing.

The Man

Some towns exude a sense of wonder and welcome. Woodstock, Vermont, often named among the most beautiful places in America, is one of them. Rodger is a part of that ambiance. His position as Horticultural Enhancement Specialist is not just about nurturing flowers but about fostering community spirit.

If you find yourself in the area and someone with a white beard and a smile says, “Hi!” you may engage in a conversation that leaves you smiling, sprinkled with frequent bursts of laughter. Rodger says he talks to so many people because, well, they talk to him. “And,” he adds, “because I may have entertained angels.” Rodger is a man of faith who says the main thing he has learned is we should all “be a little nicer. I would help anyone at any time. I wouldn’t hesitate.” Much like he took it upon himself to help the flowers when they needed it.

The beauty of the hanging baskets that adorn the streets, as well as Rodger’s generosity of spirit and heartfelt kindness, are a shared experience for all. He is the embodiment of small-town charm, a quintessential character, an entertaining conversationalist. He sums it up simply: “I’m just a happy guy, and I like to have a good time.”

Yes, Rodger does like to have fun. Each day he cultivates not just flowers but also a joyful sense of camaraderie while sharing laughter and wisdom, delight and guidance. Woodstock is a better and more beautiful place because of his flowers and his presence.

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