Rash's Surname Index
Notes for Joseph Liddon Jr. PENNOCK
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - July 29, 2003
Deceased Name: J. Liddon Pennock Jr
90, a floral artist, landscape designer and cultural activist who decorated society weddings and the Nixon White House, died Thursday at his home at Meadowbrook Farm, the estate and gardens he cultivated in Abington Township.
Mr. Pennock was born in Ocean City, N.J., and grew up in Philadelphia, where his family operated a Center City florist shop for more than 100 years. He graduated from William Penn Charter School and attended the agricultural college of Cornell University.
In 1933, his father called him home from Cornell. Paul Meyer, director of Morris Arboretum and a longtime friend said: "It was the Depression, and his father needed Liddon's help to save the family business."
Mr. Pennock made the shop a success and became florist to the wealthy and well-connected, creating sophisticated settings for debutante suppers and du Pont weddings. "I would have done Grace Kelly's wedding if she had been married in Philadelphia," he told a reporter. "I did her sister's."
Mr. Pennock did the decorations for the wedding of Tricia Nixon Cox at the White House, and for the White House garden party for Prince Charles and Princess Ann, and he decorated the executive mansion for Christmas from 1971 to 1973.
After he sold the florist shop in 1970, Mr. Pennock built a retail nursery, greenhouses and a garden shop at Meadowbrook Farm. The house, furnishings, and grounds were a gift from his in-laws when he married Alice Herkness in 1936.
The current 25-acre estate includes wooded acreage, a private house, gardens and display gardens. In addition to selling plants, Meadowbrook Farms offers tours, workshops and demonstrations.
When asked about his horticultural gifts, Mr. Pennock said, "In a way, I'm a fake. People think I know a great deal more about plants than I do. My main forte is knowing how to use plants better than anybody else."
He generously shared his talents and taste. In the 1980s, he was chairman and later adviser to the Philadelphia Flower Show.
"He influenced the style and quality of the show," said Jane Pepper, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which runs the annual event. Meadowbrook Farm entries were perennial ribbon-winners at the show.
Meyer said that when Mr. Pennock was chairman of the capital campaign of the Morris Arboretum in the 1990s, "he didn't just lend his name; he rolled up his sleeves and brought a whole new constituency of supporters to the arboretum. He would send handwritten thank-you notes to contributors. If there was a meeting, he was there."
Mr. Pennock was active with many cultural organizations. He was a former board member and past president of the Academy of Music and a trustee emeritus of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association.
"I don't consider myself socially prominent," he said, "just well-liked." He and his wife were often on best-dressed lists - he preferred sweater vests and bow ties. When asked about her husband's decorating talents, Alice Pennock said, "Nobody can wrap it all up in one package as he does. He knows lights. He's artistic. He's a mechanic. He's a painter."
Of her, Mr. Pennock said, "I made the best catch in Philadelphia; she was beautiful and wealthy."
Alice Pennock died in 1996. Mr. Pennock is survived by a sister, Elizabeth Pennock Sawyer; three nephews; and a niece.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 9 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 7809 Old York Rd., Elkins Park. A reception will follow at the Morris Arboretum, 100 Northwestern Ave., in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Burial is private.
Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or [email protected]@phillynews.com.
Copyright (c) 2003 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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