MICHIGAN CITY — Looking back over his life of 86 years, Bill Woodruff said, “Everything has happened too fast.”
As he closes La Porte County Landscaping and La Porte County Nursery, he's grateful for the chance to take his passion and make a living at it.
The businessman, whose own family is legendary in the area for horticulture entreprenuermanship, is humbly grateful for the “opportunities greater than the average person” granted to him in life.
“I had the opportunity to pass and touch many things in my lifetime,” he said.
He jokingly mentioned his “connection to fame” as his Air Force ROTC classmate in college was Neil Armstrong. Yet, it was Bill who took the first solo flight in his class. He served as a pilot for troop transports – at 6-foot-4, he was too large for fighter planes and flew twin-engine craft instead.
With his love of flying, Bill returned home to rebuild a few Piper J-3s (a light aircraft built 1938 and 1947) and flew for Joe Phillips in Michigan City, picking up parts for local factories.
In another “accident of time” Bill told how he had his photo taken meeting actor Jack Nicholson while working on a golf course in Fort Wayne.
Another fond memory is “the ability to experience many parts of the world through horticulture connections.”
Because of his involvement with the International Plant Propagators Association, Bill and his wife traveled to Africa, Australia, Germany (Karin grew up in Hamburg during World War II), and several others.
“All of the things my wife and I did went by so quickly,” he said.
Bill remembered one business trip to Washington, D.C.
“We were touring the grounds when we saw president George Bush got off a helicopter. He pointed to us and said, 'Who are those people?' ” Bill recalled.
“I had the opportunity to be exposed to many different things besides growing trees,” he said. “I’ve been paid to do what people have to wait for retirement to do – work in their gardens, plant trees. There’s been accidents of time that have helped my development.”