John "Jack" Buretta, a longtime Ottumwa florist who spent nearly all his life in the city, died Saturday, Nov. 4, after a stay at the Good Samaritan Home. He was 90.
Throughout life, Jack Buretta offered an infectious laugh, a quick wit, and a ready story to tell. A devotee of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, his love and generosity extended to all living things - especially to his family and to his pet cats.
He was born July 18, 1927 in Minneapolis, the first child of loving Polish Catholic parents, Stanley and Mary (Kolodji) Buretta. It was a wondrous summer in which to be born American - when Babe Ruth swatted 60 home runs, and Charles Lindbergh flew a flimsy plane solo from New York to Paris.
After the Great Depression's onset, the Burettas travelled in Wisconsin in search of scarce work. After a stay in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the family moved to Ottumwa in the early 1930s. They eventually made their longtime home on South Ransom Street.
The elder Buretta worked as a foreman for the Kranz Greenhouse in Ottumwa. Young Jack followed his father to work there as an apprentice florist, after he graduated from St. Patrick's School in 1942.
Stirred by patriotism at age 17, Jack enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, in April, 1945. He began active duty in June of that year, and served in the Pacific theater. His lengthy World War II photo album includes a "Pearl Harbor Victory Lights" celebration picture in Honolulu, Hawaii in August, 1945.
America had triumphed. Only nine months later, disaster struck.
On June 1, 1946, Mary Buretta received an ominous Western Union telegram from the Navy. Her son was seriously ill in a naval hospital with sometimes-fatal spinal meningitis. He had contracted the illness while on a transport vessel to the Philippines.
Once recovered after a month-long hospital stay, Jack was discharged from the Navy in August, 1946. Still a teen-ager, and with renewed vitality, he returned to Ottumwa. Using extensive floral design and business training from Honolulu and Kansas City, he opened Buretta's Flower and Gift Shop in 1954. Jack's "artistry in flowers" decorated Church Street for 17 years.
In addition to starting his own firm, he helped his father build and create the family's greenhouse business, which operated separately at 601 South Ransom Street. The Buretta Greenhouse opened in 1953, and operated until the early 1970s. At the north end of Ransom Street, Jack's flower shop was flourishing, so he celebrated his business expansion with a "South Ottumwa Days" event in 1962.
The Buretta Greenhouse served a commercial purpose, but it also served as a community center. Greenhouse customers, family and friends were drawn not only by business, but by good food and even better hospitality.
Jack later farmed for several years near Blakesburg.
He was preceded in death by: his mother, Mary; his father, Stanley; two sisters, Eileen Buretta Wymore and Joan Buretta Wetovick; and a brother, Francis. He is also preceded in death by a special friend, Clova Traxler.
He is survived by his brother, Stan Buretta, Ottumwa; and nine nieces and nephews: Mike (Jenny) Wymore, Spokane, WA; Greg (Nancy) Wymore, Cedar Rapids; Randy (Kathy) Wymore, Bettendorf; Kevin (Lynne) Wymore, Madison, WI; Patty Wymore Hacker, Grayslake, Ill.; Matt (Trisha) Wymore, Cedar Rapids; Janet Wetovick (Keith) Bily, Custer, SD; Dan (Darlene) Wetovick, Fullerton, NE; and David Wetovick, Garden Grove, CA.
Personal thanks to several Ottumwa-area people who helped Jack in his final years: Donna and Bob Mullenix; Bob and Marilyn Wells; Bill Alexander and many others.
His body has been cremated. Funeral Mass will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Patrick Catholic Church with Fr. Patrick Hilgendorf presiding. Inurnment will be in Calvary Cemetery with military services conducted by Walter B. Schafer Post #775 Veterans of Foreign Wars and O.B. Nelson Post #3 American Legion.
A Christian Wake service will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Reece Funeral Home followed by a time of family visitation until 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Memorial donations may be made to St. Patrick's Church in Ottumwa, or the Heartland Humane Society.
Published on November 6, 2017