Sharon Schattgen dedicates Tribute Bench to her husband Robert, a long-time Columbia florist

Schattagen Bench Dedication

Sharon Schattgen speaks at the Robert Schattgen Tribute Bench ceremony. With her are the couple’s children, Courtney and Robert.

When Robert K. Schattgen, BS Ag ’71, passed away in 2013 after a long career in the floral industry, his wife of 42 years, Sharon Ford Schattgen, EdD ’90, chose to honor him with a Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) Tribute Bench. She chose to locate Robert’s bench within the Woodland and Floral Garden, located just outside the Agriculture Science Building.

“He was just dazzled by that little garden,” Sharon said. “It’s a lovely place to sit and enjoy a few quiet moments away from the bustle of the busy MU campus.”

The bench is near several MU greenhouses, where Robert often purchased flowers and plants to sell at the retail flower shop he managed. Sharon said he walked through the garden almost every time he was on campus to pick up merchandise.

Down a floral path

After graduating from St. Louis Community College-Meramec, Robert Schattgen moved to Columbia in 1968 to attend the University of Missouri as a business major. His high school and college job working for Wichman’s Flower Shop in his hometown of Webster Groves, Mo., led him to a part-time job at H.R. Mueller Florist in downtown Columbia. It was a satisfying job in more than one way. In addition to working in a business he thoroughly enjoyed, he also met and worked alongside his future wife.

On the advice of one of his advisors, Robert eventually switched his major from business to horticulture.

“Floristry and floral retail management — it was a perfect mix of majors, combining two aspects of horticulture he loved,” said Sharon.

Robert Young

A young Robert Schattgen in the floral department at Nowell’s Supermarket.

In 1971, newly married and with a B.S. in agriculture, Robert was hired by Nowell’s Supermarket, located in the building now occupied by Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, to manage a floral shop within the store.

“We take it for granted now, but it was a novel idea back then to place a full-service florist within a grocery store,” said Sharon. “In the beginning, the flower shop was part of the produce department. Initially, it had only a table and a two-door cooler.”

A store remodel five years later gave Robert much more space, affording him the opportunity to build on his initial success.

“He developed a loyal following and ultimately created a huge business,” Sharon said. “He was fortunate that Nowell’s was the prime grocery store in Columbia at the time.

“Robert was grateful for every customer, and he treated each of them as if he or she were the most important one. He took as much pleasure in selling a client a small “cash-and-carry” bouquet as he did in creating a large, fancy centerpiece for a dinner party. He regarded flowers as a way to celebrate life’s joys as well as to provide comfort during times of sorrow. Over time, he became close friends with many of his clients.”

“Outside of the flower shop, Robert was an active member of the Columbia Northwest Rotary Club for more than 30 years. He took great pleasure in coordinating the club’s Rotary Rose Sale. He also was a dedicated member of Calvary Episcopal Church, serving several terms on the parish’s vestry,” Sharon added. “And when our children, Robert and Courtney, were young, he served as the leader of Robert’s Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop, and also as the director of Courtney’s church youth group.”

When the Worley Street Nowell’s store closed, Robert moved to Nowell’s south location and went to the store’s east location when the business was purchased and became Patricia’s — now Moser’s — and worked there until his unexpected death.

Paying tribute

“When Robert died, we wanted to do something to honor him. We started an endowed fund, The Robert K. Schattgen Floral Inspiration Fund, to support horticulture students’ professional development, which was so important to him,” Sharon said.

Sharon worked on the MU campus for 30 years, building a successful career in educational assessment and evaluation.

“I was employed at MU when Chancellor Barbara Uehling initiated a major project to beautify the campus,” she said. “Over time, the campus became lovelier and lovelier.”

In 1999, the entire MU campus was designated a botanic garden.

Robert Schattgen

Robert Schattgen worked for 42 years as a Columbia florist, maintaining close ties to MU where he taught floral industry classes and purchased flowers.

In 2012, when the Schattgens decided to honor Sharon’s maternal grandparents (Oscar and Verna Bangert) — who moved to Columbia in the 1930s expressly so their children could attend MU — they looked into MUBG’s Tribute Bench Program. “Education was so important to my grandparents and to my mother and her siblings,” she said.

“Pete Millier (MUBG Director) took me all over campus to investigate possible sites. The location we selected is on the circle drive between Elm Street and Francis Quadrangle—just north of Jesse Hall, facing toward downtown.”

That experience influenced Sharon’s decision to also sponsor a Tribute Bench in Robert’s name, and she chose to place the bench in the Woodland and Floral Garden.

The bench is next to the Agriculture Science Building, where Robert attended classes and, after graduating from MU, taught flower-store management — in the same set of rooms where Tiger Garden is now located.

“It’s a fitting way to honor him. He loved the garden.”


Story by Jan Wiese-Fales • Photos courtesy of MUBG and Sharon Schattgen