Neil H. VanGinhoven ran one of the biggest wholesalers of fresh flowers on Long Island. Still, the longtime Patchogue resident was as recognized for his genuine, selfless spirit as he was for the flowers he distributed.
"He really caused a ripple effect of paying it forward," said his daughter, Debra Remien, 51, of Patchogue. "He tried to inspire by acting that way, not telling people to do it. He led by example."
VanGinhoven died on Sept. 12, 2020, from cancer. He was 78.
VanGinhoven was born on May 15, 1942, in Bay Shore. He began working in his grandfather’s flower business as a child before eventually taking over as the third-generation owner and proprietor.
"He devoted his heart and soul to the business," said Remien.
For decades, VanGinhoven stood at the helm of three mainstays in his community: Patchogue Floral Distributors, Patchogue Floral Fantasyland and H.N. VanTasia. He was known for fostering great camaraderie among the 80 workers he employed and "treated all of them like family," said Remien.
"My dad made everyone feel like they were the only ones that existed when he spoke to them," said his son, Cornelius "Neil" VanGinhoven II. "He listened with genuine interest and provided wisdom and support for everything that he touched without judgment."
VanGinhoven worked in the family business for more than 50 years before the stores closed in 2006. Outside of work, he enjoyed spending time with his family.
"For him, the most important thing was having family together — having every member of his family respect each other and come together and really make memories together," said his daughter, Sheri Hone, 53, of Lake Forest, Illinois.
VanGinhoven met his wife, Irene, when they were in elementary school. They were married for 56 years and had four children together.
"He always put other people before himself every step of the way," said Hone. "He was kind of the glue in the background behind the scenes. He was your Johnny-on-the-spot guy that would always have stuff in place. Before you even thought about it, he already hustled and had it done and never ever asked for credit for that. It was truly like a labor of love that he would do for everybody."
VanGinhoven was an avid fisherman and former president of the Patchogue Fishing Club. One of his most prized catches was a halibut in Alaska that tipped the scales at over 100 pounds. He enjoyed teaching his children and grandchildren about fishing, crabbing and clamming. He loved taking them on annual trips to Water Island, where four generations of the family would gather and go fishing together.
"He was always thinking about the good of the family, the community, his business," said his daughter, Wendy Moore, 48, of Darien, Connecticut. "He was a man of his word, and he was a man of action and integrity. His legacy is a zest for life and showing us that there’s a better way to live."
Besides his wife and four children, VanGinhoven is survived by his daughter Sheri’s husband, David; his daughter Debra’s husband, Jason; his daughter Wendy’s husband, Daniel; and his son Cornelius’ fiancee, Kathleen.
He is also survived by eight grandchildren; his sister, Susan Bishop, and her husband, Hewlett; his aunt, Floss Frabizio; and many nieces and nephews.