Worcester Wreath Company - an entrepreneurial success story that honors our Fallen Heroes!
In 1963, when he was 12 years old, Morrill Worcester delivered papers for the Bangor Daily News. That year, he sold the most subscriptions in a contest and was awarded a trip to Washington, D.C. He visited all the sites but none impressed him more than the Arlington National Cemetery, where he saw firsthand that thousands of men and women had given their lives for the cause of freedom. He never forgot the experience.
Even though he thought he would become a beef cattle farmer, the young Worcester became an entrepreneur instead. In his career, he has developed businesses in a variety of industries including agriculture, manufacturing, construction, power generation, industrial baking and professional basketball. Today, he is still involved in several enterprises which collectively rank as the second largest employer in Washington County, Maine. But none of his current operations has brought him more attention than the Worcester Wreath Company, Founded in 1971, Worcester Wreath Company has become the world’s largest producer of holiday balsam products and for 25 years a top vendor/supplier to LL Bean. Morrill’s son, Michael, serves as general manager at the company, which this year will likely produce over 500,000 wreaths.
In December of 1992, Worcester Wreath Company found itself with a large overstock of Christmas wreaths and no time left in the season to market them. After some consideration about what to do with all those beautiful wreaths, Morrill hit on an idea. With support from Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, he made contact with Arlington National Cemetery and received permission to place the wreaths at gravesites of fallen soldiers. Fifteen years and more than 60,000 wreaths later, the placement of Christmas wreaths at Arlington has become a highly anticipated annual event that involves many people, companies, schools and youth organizations. Blue Bird Ranch, a Jonesboro, Maine trucking company, has transported wreaths every year without charge, and many of their employees have donated time and effort to the cause. Volunteers from the Maine State Society have been involved every year, and school teachers have led field trips for their students to participate.
In recent years, the Civil Air Patrol has become a very active participant in the annual event. CAP, a national youth organization with 65,000 members, provides help with the laying of wreaths at Arlington and student groups organize fundraising events throughout the year to make the trip possible. Spurred by the tremendous outpouring of letters and interest, and to celebrate the 15 years of giving, Worcester Wreath Company solicited CAP and its members to help expand the reaches of the Arlington Wreath Project with Wreaths Across America – the placing of memorial wreaths during special ceremonies across the country. The goal is to involve each of the over 230 state and national cemeteries, veterans monuments and memorials across the country. Morrill Worcester suggests that people who cannot attend an event may still participate by taking a moment of silence at the noon hour on December 14th, to reflect on the sacrifices made and freely given, by those who will not be home for the holidays.
Although the road to success is typically paved with toil and sweat, other key ingredients are seeing opportunity in crisis and acting on a good idea when it comes along. In 1992, Morrill Worcester was faced with a problem that got his wheels to turning, and acting from his heart, he made a move that became a movement.
“I've been blessed with a great business and a great family,” says Morrill, who has six children including two sons who work in two of his businesses. “I was never a veteran myself, but I have always been grateful for the sacrifices they have made. We laid the wreaths at Arlington for 13 years without many people knowing about it, but this past year it started getting a lot of media attention. If it draws more attention to what our veterans have done for us, then that’s a good thing. I started Worcester Wreath Company when I was 21 years old, the same average age of all the soldiers who gave their lives in all the conflicts America has been involved with. They gave me the freedom to develop and enjoy my business and raise my family. Giving back to them and their families is the least I can do. I only wish I could decorate every grave.”
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