Out of sadness beauty blooms Eumas Lowell

Out of sadness beauty blooms  Eumas Lowell

10/26/2023

by Ed Brennen

For the past decade, Ryan Lamour has been growing dahlias along the stone wall outside his century-old home in Dracut, Massachusetts. When the flowers bloom, he loves bringing them to work at UMass Lowell and sharing them with faculty, staff and students.
“I'm trying to make UMass Lowell a better place,” says Lamour, a housekeeper on the facilities management team since 2015. “I feel good because people are enjoying it so much.”

Thanks to a rainy summer, Lamour's dahlia garden is more bountiful than ever this year, with each of its 140 plants producing up to 20 dazzling flowers.

He sees it as a nod from his late wife, Laura, who died in May at the age of 37 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer.

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Ryan Lamour and Laura Lesafre married in 2012. She was originally from Melrose, Massachusetts.



“I feel like it might have something to do with why they're growing so well this year,” Lamour says. “With all the rain, I've seen a lot of rainbows this summer. I take it as a sign from her, which is comforting.”
“We are lucky to have him”

Lamour is assigned to the Donna Manning Health and Social Sciences Building on South Campus. The people who work, teach and learn within the building have come to appreciate the unexpected gifts from its garden. Those who knew of his late wife's diagnosis did their best to comfort and support him.

“He's a wonderful, kind soul who cheers us on every day. I hope we can cheer him up with everything he's been through,” says Karen Mullins, a graduate advisor in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies who “tried to be a listening ear” to Lamour.

Lamour, who lost 45 pounds while “living in the hospital” with Laura, often receives home-cooked meals from staff.

“They're always checking on me to make sure I'm okay,” he says. “Some are like a second mother to me.”

A man in a blue shirt poses for a photo with a woman, both holding flowers

Photo by Ed Brennen

College of Criminology and Justice Studies Office Director Eka Hunt loves bringing Ryan Lamour homemade sourdough bread every week.



Eka Hunt, office manager of the College of Criminology and Justice Studies, is an avid sourdough bread baker. She brings Lamour a loaf every week.
“We're very lucky to have him,” Hunt says. “He's very thoughtful, and brings us flowers. He puts us in a really great mood at work.”

Jean Ducharme, college advising coordinator at the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, recently nominated Lamour for an award Glory Award for “bringing beauty and joy” to the building.

“Ryan does his job extremely well, but he has gone out of his way to make HSS a beautiful place to work and learn,” she wrote in her nomination, adding that his dahlias “are no ordinary flowers — they are masterpieces like I have never seen before.” I've seen it before.”

Lamour says the people in the building, along with the understanding of his managers and the generosity of his coworkers who covered his shifts when he had to be at the hospital, allowed him to care for Laura over the past four years.

“Work has been a really positive environment for me,” he says. “I am very grateful to work at UMass Lowell.”

Find his passion

Originally from Ipswich, Massachusetts, L'Amour met Laura in Boston. They married in 2012 and moved to Lowell when she worked as a music teacher at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford, Massachusetts.

A man in a blue shirt smiles as he poses for a photo outside a building, holding flowers

Photo by Ed Brennen

Ryan Lamour likes to grow dahlias because they are “beautiful,” but adds, “I wish they would last longer.”



Lamour worked nights and weekends as the food and beverage director at Merrimack College, a job that left him little time to see Laura. So, in 2015, he joined the UML team. Laura soon began working toward her doctorate in music from Boston University.
Around that time, Lamour was introduced to dahlias by his best friend's father, who needed help planting perennials in his yard. Lamour learned that you have to dig up the tubers in the fall, store them indoors over the winter before replanting them in the spring.

“Each plant produces five varieties the next year,” says Lamour, who has about 35 varieties in his garden.

L'Amour learned how to hybridize flowers and created his own variety, which he called “Dracut Red.” He hopes to obtain a certificate from the National Dahlia Society.

“This has become a passion for me,” he says.

But as Laura's condition deteriorated earlier this year, Lamour didn't think he'd plant flowers.

She died on May 24 – five days after receiving her doctorate from Boston University.

“It took seven years – the last four while she was undergoing treatment,” he says. “She was still going to work, even though she couldn't walk from her car to class. After she died, we found out she had had a heart attack at some point. But she wouldn't let that stop her from doing what she loved.

After Laura's death, one of her brothers suggested that Lamour plant dahlias and “think about them while doing it.” So, the day after her funeral, he went out to the stone wall in their yard and started digging.

“She taught me to find your passion in life,” says Lamour, who may be selling some of the dahlias to raise money for a scholarship fund in Laura's name.

But until the first frost comes, he'll continue cutting dahlias and sharing them with the folks at UML.

“I'm still sad. Giving people flowers this year has been a joy for me,” he says after handing a single flower to Mullins on the fourth floor of the HSS building. “I feel like it's a gift from Laura to me to help me feel better.”

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