Denise “Dee” Schoenmakers, 65, died Aug. 28 following a brief illness. She was a well-known figure in the Washington tree fruit industry, spending most of her career at the Washington State Horticultural Association and Van Well Nursery.
After working at the association, Schoenmakers joined Van Well Nursery in 2003. She was hired as an executive assistant but quickly moved into sales, thanks to her commitment to customer service. Growers from all over the world would ask for her by name, and local orchardists would come to the nursery in person to see her, according to an obituary from Van Well Nursery.
Schoenmakers knew every variety in the catalog — when they picked, how they tasted and the areas they were best planted. This knowledge came firsthand, as she preserved, baked, juiced and dried all the various fruits in the company’s orchards. Whenever someone brought a new apple, pear or cherry variety into the office, she was first in line to taste it and give her assessment. Schoenmakers retired from Van Well Nursery in March.
Schoenmakers was a dedicated volunteer with the Washington Apple Education Foundation, helping out at golf tournaments and other functions. She was recognized as WAEF Volunteer of the Year in 2016.
—by Matt Milkovich