To the end, he was the embodiment of the Christmas spirit.
“It was the meaning of Christmas,” said Matthias Burke, owner of the Lakewood holiday store, who was known to Bill Hixson, who died Dec. 29 at 93. “He was a very nice and caring person.
Hixson, known to generations as “Mr. He had operated his store on Detroit Avenue since 1959. The place is known for its handmade jewelry and a 15-foot tall Raggedy Ann doll in the front window.
During this time, Hixson was greeting customers who still remember coming in as children, some with their grandchildren.
Hixson shared stories and gave red carnations to women.
“They get the flowers and I get hugs and kisses,” he said.
Hixson sat next to a case containing the personally designed jewelry that adorns the White House. For nearly 40 years, from Reagan to Obama, he volunteered to decorate the executive mansion for Christmas and other special events.
He developed personal friendships with several First Ladies.
“You are a dear and generous Santa,” says the 2018 letter written by Laura Bush. “And we’re glad you’re our friend.”
Hixson began as a florist, and became world-renowned as a designer, teaching classes across the country and in Europe and Japan. He was the co-creator of Oasis Green Foam used in floral arrangements.
More important than his professional accomplishments for Burke, who has worked at the store for 28 years, is the way Hixson treats his customers.
“You can be in a bad mood, or you can be in a sad mood, and talking to him turns it around,” Burke said. “He was real and honest and loyal to a lot of people. He cares deeply about making everyone around him better.”
Hickson was born in Berea in 1929 and grew up during the Great Depression. He and his older brother get two gifts for Christmas, usually socks or sweaters, and a toy or book.
It was all very appreciated, Hixson said.
He got his love for growing things from his mother, and he grew and sold vegetables on the family farm. He attended Western Technical High School and studied horticulture. After graduation, he worked for Knoble’s Florists and after a stint in the Army, he returned to Cleveland and opened his own shop, Hixson’s Flower Bar, in 1953. They moved to their present location in 1959.
In 1963, a young woman came from Canada just to study at the famous Hickson. Eunice Sowiak became a lifelong partner in Hixson’s business and life. She passed away in January 2022.
Hixson has written several books about Christmas traditions from around the world, many of which are reflected in the decorative pieces and pieces made by artisans from around the world.
“It was about memories and carrying on traditions,” Burke said.
With a great team in place, Burke promises that legacy will continue.