By Jo Fredell Higgins
Let me introduce you to William “Bill” Wulff, former proprietor of Aurora Greenhouse Florist, 1989 through 2007. Bill is well-read and well-traveled. After 20 years he continues to serve as president at the Heather Ridge townhomes in Presbury, Sugar Grove, and as president of the Sugar Grove Historical Society and as secretary of the North Aurora Garden Club. He lived in Chicago and served as an officer on the condo boards where he lived. Bill is a master gardener who has spent the last 23 years perfecting his garden space which was featured in Bliss Living in 2016.
He was first born with a twin brother July 18, 1943 to Alfred Joseph and Nathalie Gelis Wulff. They had met as students at the University of Illinois and were wed April 10, 1942 at St. Edward’s in Chicago. His father was in real estate and built several buildings in Aurora, one of which the FBI and the SSA rented from him. His father passed in 2004 and his mother in 2012 just days before Christmas. Bill’s twin, Dick, died unexpectedly November 25, 1962 at age 19.
Bill was graduated from Holy Angels, Marmion Academy, and attended St. Ambrose College 1962-1963, but immaturity caused him to flunk out, whereupon he enlisted for four years in the U.S. Navy and then returned to St. Ambrose to finish his degree in 1972. He majored in business and economics.
Most of his four years in the Navy were spent on the USS Providence CLG-6 which saw home port at Yokoska, Japan as part of the Pacific 7th Fleet during the Vietnam War. The Providence carried 150 Terrior Missles with half being nuclear tipped. “We were constantly moving to avoid enemy fire and had to leave port at night so a Viet Cong swimmer could not attach a mine to the hull. Marines were on board protecting the missiles and if anyone was caught near them, they would have been immediately shot with no questions asked. The ship had 1,500 men crew with 150 of them officers,” Bill said.
“We took shore batteries twice on the port side and the damage was analyzed to see what the batteries contained. The strike took off one of our important radars. We were only allowed to pull into Danang Harbor in the daylight. Those surface to air missiles were stored in the missile house on the main deck. They were painted Navy blue. The Admiral’s quarters were located on the main deck also,” he said.
Bill worked at the State Street Marshall Field store as a credit analylist and lived in Chicago for 18 years. He worked at the Hart, Schaffner and Marx men’s clothing store, Bell and Howell, and DynaScan which was a division of COBRA Phones before he returned to the Aurora area.
Bill had purchased the greenhouse from Russell and Madeline Onak for $100,000 in cash. She advised him to “Sell what you have, not what they want.” Meaning if he had an abundance of white roses to let the client know they were special that day. Even if at first she wanted red roses! He especially enjoyed his employees and customers. Each employee had a key to the shop and nothing was ever stolen.
With his home showcased on three previous garden walks, Bill has fashioned a pacific backyard where he can read and reminisce. Join me next week when we look at his recent Tauck Tour to England, Scotland, and Wales with delicious meals, ancient castles and historical locations as part of the tour package.
“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” —Shakespeare, Richard II
The memories of this grand adventure were earlier woven into a unique travelling tapestry by Tauck Tours to England, Scotland & Wales. Travel & Leisure magazine lists them as the World’s Best Tour Operators and their European river cruises as the World’s Best. This family-owned travel business has been showing people the world for the past 90 years.
Bill Wulff of Sugar Grove and formerly Aurora and Chicago has been well-trained. The former owner of Aurora Greenhouse we met in part one, is more than a master gardener. His remarkable trips include England.
I was living vicariously through Bill’s trip and enjoying it immensely. First port of call was Edinburgh and Stirling Castle while staying at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Some of Edinburgh’s main attractions included The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the home of John Knox, St. Giles Cathedral, the old medieval open air street market at Grassmarket and Princes Street with its boutiques, pubs and restaurants.
In one of the travel brochures that Bill Wulff gave me was the Bodnant Welsh Food one which stated that “The devine, defi ned.” All food is produced at the Bodnant dairy to include any ice cream, cheese, meats, bakery items and wines. Some of the vintages come from Wales, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. “Stylish, intimate venue where the possibilities are endless and a feast awaits each guest,” according to the line notes.
When reading The Hayloft Restaurant menu for Sunday lunch at Bodnant, it became very clear how enticing the meals were. Artisan bread, wild mushroom bruschetta, black pudding and lamb Scotch egg were starters. The mains included homemade quiche of the day with new potatoes and seasonal vegetables, vegetable Wellington, fillet of seabass, all served with roast potatoes, vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding. Is your mouth watering yet?
Desserts included a chocolate torte with a roasted nut crunch, cheesecake with raspberry topping, Bodnant ice creams, and Bodnant cheese board. If one didn’t gain 10 pounds on this trip, one was not trying!
Hadrian’s Wall, the Borders and the English Lakes with a visit to Grasmere, home of William Wordsworth was the third day with sleeping at the Langdale Estate Hotel. A drive to Bath meant the Thermae Spa, the Roman Baths, and the Royal Crescent not far from the Francis Hotel. The Sofitel Francis Hotel was re-designed in 2012 which cost 6.6 Million pounds or about 8 Million U.S. dollars.
And yet the great cities of Oxford and London awaited. The University of Oxford, Christ Church, Exeter College, Trinity College, and the Botanic Garden were all points of interest.
More pleasures abounded at Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and staying at the luxurious Savoy Hotel, a five star hotel situated looking over the River Thames. The Savoy took five years to build and opened August 6, 1889 and caused a sensation. The Savoy is proud of its Art Deco heritage and traditional Edwardian designs and features.
The hotel is an authentic reflection of more than 100 years of history with a strong location presence, energy and culture. The hotel was the first to be lighted by electricity.
It had the first electric lifts, known as ascending rooms. Later the Savoy became the first hotel to provide most of its rooms with private
bathrooms. The Savoy bathroom became famous for its cascading shower and quick-filling baths.
Some famous guests have included Sarah Bernhardt, artists Whistler and Monet, Oscar Wilde, the Prince of Wales, George Gershwin, H.G. Wells and Frank Sinatra.
Now the Savoy can add William Wulff of Sugar Grove and Aurora to its list of esteemed guests.