Fort Worth florist pays tribute to his first-grade teacher with 89-rose bouquet

FORT WORTH -- Retired teacher Nancy Ward was moved to tears when a single yellow rose was delivered to her home on Saturday.

Then she saw a deliveryman coming up the walkway with a second batch: 88 more roses.

"Here comes this man holding this huge arrangement," Ward said. "I was flabbergasted."

The card said, "From your first-grade student Poncho."

Poncho Hermosillo, now 68, grew up to become a florist. The gift was for Ward's 89th birthday.

In the late 1940s, Poncho was a shy boy who barely spoke English when Ward was his teacher in a rural, two-teacher schoolhouse in Brazos, near Mineral Wells.

"It's a really wonderful story," Ward said, then began to relate how the two reunited many decades later in Fort Worth.

Ward was teaching in Brazos while completing her education at Texas Christian University. After graduation, she moved to Fort Worth.

Over the years, Ward taught at three elementary schools in Fort Worth -- W.J. Turner, West Van Zandt Elementary and for 20 years at Waverly Park until she retired in 1980.

"I loved teaching first grade," Ward said.

Hermosillo grew up poor, he said, and found work in the florist business, making deliveries and cleaning up. He eventually moved to Fort Worth and worked for a major local florist for about three decades until he saved enough money to start his own business in 1997 -- Poncho's Flower Villa. And he chose the Ridgmar area, not far from where Ward lived.

Ward saw a Star-Telegram story about the newly opened shop. The story said he grew up in Mineral Wells. Could her little Poncho possibly be the owner of Poncho's Flower Villa?

Ward had treasured her first class so much that she saved all the tiny individual student photos taken that year. Among them were "such sweet boys" Poncho and his brother Manuel.

One day, she went into the shop and showed the photos to the woman behind the counter. It was Hermosillo's wife, Michele.

"All these years, she had kept all these little pictures in her file," Michele Hermosillo said. "She is a living doll. And then it turns out she lives right around the corner."

Ward began shopping at Poncho's.

"He's so gifted," she said.

While taking an order from Ward recently, Hermosillo got her talking about birthdays, and slyly asked when hers was. Feb. 25, she said.

"I wanted to honor her," Hermosillo said simply. The arrangement included three types of roses -- a yellow and the varieties Circus and Konfetti.

"I've never seen anything like this," the mother of two and grandmother of three said of the bouquet. "There's nothing like the love of teachers for their students and vice versa."

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367