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Florist Joe Naranjo was man of principle, character, had strength of his convictions
Manteca florist Joseph D. Naranjo stands at his front door on a past Easter Sunday. - photo by Photo Contributed
If anyone could be described as a genuinely caring human being, longtime Manteca florist Joseph D. “Joe” Naranjo would get my vote hands down with his infectious smile and charismatic personality.

Joe’s memorial service is scheduled for Thursday,  Feb. 18,  at 11 a.m. at the Christ Community Church on Carver Road in Modesto – a church he helped establish.  He and his wife Vivian operated Flowers by Lauri shop on West Yosemite Avenue for more than 20 years.

One story about Joe that really tells a lot about his character happened at the counter of the flower shop when a woman and her three little girls touched his heart big time.  They looked hungry and tattered and Joe was going to do something to make a difference for them.

Joe walked the little family across the street to the Foster Freeze where he was intent on getting them something to eat.  He left two $20 bills at the counter with the directive that they be given plenty to eat – because they were really hungry.

He was described as “Mr. Manteca Bulletin” by Isadore’s Restaurant owner Isadore Fang who said he would often stop by the shop to chat with Joe when he had time.  Joe would know everything about the community that was in the paper.  Fang said when he didn’t have to buy the paper – Joe already knew it all with a measure of his great concern for what was going on in the community thrown editorially into the mix.   He remembers hesitating on a couple of occasions when he wanted to stop and buy flowers for his wife – because he didn’t have time to be engaged in one of Joe’s provocative,  in-depth, albeit  exciting,  conversations.   

Laurel Fang didn’t hesitate in talking about Joe either.  “Joe was spectacular – the flower lord.  He knew everything about flowers,” she said.  She remembered when she first came to town in ’89 and in need of flowers— she was shopping for price.  When she got Joe on the phone, she remembers getting a total education on flowers.  It was the birth of a long friendship between the two couples.

Speaking candidly, she admitted, “He was a character, period!  He liked to visit and share his knowledge with a very strong opinion – went out of his way for everybody.”  Laurel remembered well the nights following the “Taste of Manteca” events and going back to the restaurant with both couples having a good time over dinner.  

“He was a lot of fun,” she said.

I, too, will miss Joe Naranjo whom I’ve had the honor to call a friend for many years.  Where else could you pull into a flower shop any time of the day and be welcomed with open arms by folks like both Joe and Vivian.  It was always a treat to learn what Joe had on his mind, and how he was reacting to city politics at any given time.  He never hesitated – he wasn’t shy – he would give you his straight talk.

The flower business was everything to him
And, I do believe it really broke his heart when he had to close the flower shop.  The flower business was everything to him – it was his connection to the people in the community and to the news of the day.  It was also with his flowers that he could make a difference for his customers.

One of nine children of Macario and Elena Naranjo,  he grew up in Ceres graduating from Ceres High School in 1962 with a stint in the Army and honorably discharged in 1966.

His career in the flower business began with Loomis Floral then to Dean Floral in Turlock and onto Ron Simi’s flower Shop in the McHenry Village.  Realizing his passion and ambition to own his own business, Joe left Simi after several years and purchased Flowers by Lauri in 1985.

Joe and Vivian met in 1979 and were married two years later in July of 1981 in Carmel.

With her background in banking – having been raised in Manteca – it was an obvious business move for them to open their own flower shop.  His grandchildren were his most treasured part of his family.  He was known to them as “Papa Joe.”

Survivors include his loving wife Vivian, of Modesto; son Michael, of Ripon; daughter Michelle Goodreau, of Oakdale, nephew, Mark Ranzo, of Modesto, brothers Marcus and Louis Naranjo, of Santa Rosa;  Jess Naranjo, of Fresno, Jesse Torres, of Modesto; grandchildren Paul, Mia, Kyle and Kaylee.

He is also survived by many nieces and nephews and godchildren.  Joe was preceded in death by his father Macario Naranjo and his mother Elena Naranjo;  brothers Frank Torres and Vincent Naranjo; sisters Teresa Torres Delgado, Marcelina and Maria Elena Naranjo.

Memorial donations in his memory can be made to Christ Community Church or Community Hospice House, 4368 Spyres Ways, Modesto, CA 95356.