The Rose Man's Petal Power

In Lake Placid, Fla., the local superhero is an 85-year-old retiree known simply as "The Rose Man." The Rose Man — a.k.a. Willard Campbell — started using his petal power 20 years ago.

"The idea hit me — well, if I've got excess roses, why don't I take 'em and give 'em to the patients in the hospital?" he tells CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman in this week's Assignment America report.

It was a relatively simple mission at first: to rescue patients from dreary and drab with a little bud vase.

Soon, he started taking flowers to other places around town where he thought people could use a little pick-me-up. Like the doctor's office and the tax collector's office and Radio Shack. And from there, Willard says, "it mushroomed."

Today, he not only brings free, weekly roses to just about every business in town, he brings them to just about every person in every business in town.

No one is immune to his generosity — no one, not even the florist.

"It's really nice that he remembers us," says a local florist. "And I enjoy them just like everyone else does."

Why does Willard do it?

"Because, first, I want to keep busy. And I enjoy it. And I enjoy giving them away. And I like to see the smiles on the people's faces that gets 'em," he says.

"A lot of women say, 'I want to hug your neck.' Well, I don't do it for the hug on my neck. I get all the hugs I want here," Willard says, referring to Opal, his grade-school sweetheart and wife of 65 years.

"I feel like if there was only one rose bouquet, that I would be the one to get it," says Opal.

They lived in Kentucky, where Willard worked as a homebuilder before retiring to Lake Placid — if you can call it retiring.

Willard spends up to 10 hours a day preparing and delivering roses to the delight of appreciative office workers.

"It shows that people still care and want to brighten your day," one workers says.

"It makes our day. Everybody is happy. We all scurry out to get our flowers," says another.

"Willard gives me more roses than my husband does. I think Willard gives most of us more flowers that our husbands do."

Not long ago, in appreciation for Willard's generosity, the town commissioned a mural in his honor. It's a tribute to the man who believes people deserve not only to make a decent living, but to smell the roses while they're at it.

Willard says he doesn't know how many roses he has given away, but his best guess is about 25,000 annually.
  • Michelle Singer

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