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Valentine's Day keeps local Cupid's crew busy delivering flowers, songs

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Great Plains Harmony members Tim Noteboom, from left, Ben Noteboom and Gordon Moe talk Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Fargo about the group’s fundraiser of delivering singing valentines with barbershop quartets. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 3
Jill Johnson, right, and Jeanne Rodriguez, seasonal part-time worker with Country Greenery, prepare to load bouquets for delivery Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 3

FARGO — Anytime love is blooming, Jill Johnson wants to be there.

For years, Johnson has trimmed out time from her other job to play Cupid with a minivan, delivering loads of Country Greenery blooms throughout the Fargo-Moorhead area.

"This is super fun, because people are really, really happy," Johnson said Monday, Feb. 12, grabbing a big vase of freshly arranged flowers to take to her vehicle idling outside the retailer's south Fargo store.

"It's my favorite fun job," she said, even though the days can run up to 12 hours hopping in and out of her vehicle, even in subzero cold.

Johnson's regular job is as a receptionist for an H&R Block tax office. But for the past six or so years, she's taken a few days off around Valentine's Day — and other holidays such as Mother's Day, Christmas and Easter — to indulge her inner flower child.

"The best part is you get to see great flowers all day," she said, taking a second to take a whiff from a rose.

"And then you get to see the people's faces when they get the flowers. They just light up!" Johnson said.

"I feel sort of like a beauty bringer," Johnson added about her side gig. "It's a way to make the world better. I think anytime you bring beauty: Yeah!"

At Shotwell Floral and Greenhouse, it's all hands on deck for Valentine's Day. That means even the company president will be rushing roses around town.

On Tuesday, Feb. 13, J.D. Shotwell was standing before a table of vases, arranging roses and baby's breath in preparation for up to 600 deliveries on the holiday.

Shotwell, who has been in the floral business since 1989, still gets a charge out of handing over vases of blooms.

"I enjoy it. I love it all," Shotwell said. "Surprising people with flowers. The smile on their faces. (Hearing them say) 'Oh, those are for me?' when they're not expecting it. It's a lot of fun."

For those whose love gives them a song in their heart, Great Plains Harmony will ensure it is sung in four-part harmony.

The group has been crooning for Valentine's cash to pay the organization's bills for at least 15 years, President Gordon Moe said.

Valentine's Day will be long, busy day for the three barbershop quartets taking part. They'll work 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., harmonizing at businesses, schools, homes, apartments and nursing homes with old-timey favorites such as "Heart of My Heart" and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."

Great Plains Harmony charges $40 for a singing valentine, a single rose and a personalized card, if they can work within a three- to six-hour window. If the songs need to be sung at a specific time, it will cost $75, according to the group's website.

The quartets show up in full tuxedos.

"The minute you walk in, there's full impact," said Tim Noteboom of Moorhead, who is scheduling the quartets this year, with piles of receipts and Valentine's cards on the kitchen table in his Moorhead home as evidence.

"Every single place we go, everyone is excited to see us," Ben Noteboom, Tim's son, said. "Sometimes the entire workplace shuts down."

"One that I really remember, we went and sang to a gal as she was getting her chemotherapy treatment. That was tough," Tim Noteboom said. "And we sang to her as she was getting her treatment. And it was special."

Moe said not every gig has been met with tears of joy and laughter. He was part of a quartet that sang to a diesel mechanic in a repair shop.

"There was nothing but a bunch of rough and ready gentlemen there to hear this song — and that was right awkward," Moe said. "And this guy did not want to be sung to."

They sang him "Heart of My Heart," Moe said.

"I'm sure he took all kinds of grief," Moe said.

Tuesday was the start of the Valentine's rush, but since "guys are procrastinators," the group will take reservations by phone at 701-552-0410 or online at up until about noon on Valentine's Day, Tim Noteboom said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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