WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published May 13, 2011, 02:37 PM

Duluth Grandmother Gets Elton John's Flowers

The highlight of last week’s Elton John show at Amsoil Arena for 93-year-old concertgoer Harriet Schwenk was the bouquet that arrived for her the next day straight from the Rocket Man’s dressing room.

By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH - The highlight of last week’s Elton John show at Amsoil Arena for 93-year-old concertgoer Harriet Schwenk was the bouquet that arrived for her the next day straight from the Rocket Man’s dressing room.

The arrangement included roses, tulips and daisies and stands about 2½ feet high, compared to the 4-foot, 7-inch gardener who lives in Lakeside and had spotted the flowers while touring backstage the afternoon before the show.

Schwenk and her granddaughter, Debbie Taylor, had been invited to tour behind the scenes and were given eighth-row tickets by David Van Puffelen, formerly of Duluth, who works as a freelance concert producer. Schwenk worked as a housekeeper and babysitter for the Van Puffelen family when David was a child.

“He said, ‘Hey, would you like to go to the Elton John concert?’ Schwenk said. “I said, ‘Is the pope Catholic?’ ”

She said she probably knows two songs by Elton John but couldn’t resist the invitation to the show.

“Because it was a concert and he was a star, and he was in the royal wedding,” she said. “If I can get that close to the royal wedding, I’m going.”

Schwenk said she was impressed by the almost-three-hour concert and she could see Elton John sitting at his piano during the entire show, which ran well beyond her usual 8 p.m. bedtime.

Van Puffelen let them tour Elton John’s dressing room in the early afternoon. Schwenk said she saw racks of beautiful outfits and shoes and fancy glasses. She said there was a chair in front of a table bearing a mirror and probably 50 bottles of cologne.

But it was the flowers that really caught her eye.

“She made a joke about trying to sneak some out with her,” Van Puffelen said.

Elton John’s assistant gave Van Puffelen a nod, and he was allowed to deliver the bouquet to Schwenk the next day.

Since then she has been inviting people over to see the arrangement. She took them with her to church on Sunday, asking friends to help her lug the heavy vase.

“The people in church were so envious,” Schwenk said. “Some had tried to get tickets and couldn’t, and here I got to go for nothing and get flowers. That tickled me, boy. I’ve been on cloud nine ever since.”

Van Puffelen said he gave the tickets to Schwenk “because I like Harriet.”

“She does stuff for people. She’s really great about that,” he said. “I knew she’d have fun.”

Taylor described her grandmother as the kind of person who goes to the grocery store, meets a stranger and gets invited to the stranger’s wedding.

“She’s one of those people that you automatically fall in love with,” Taylor said. “What an experience to have with her. It was something neither of us will ever forget.”

Tags: