Fritz Rudolph Valentine Schaefer
January 27, 1929 – August 13, 2020
Fritz Schaefer, age 91, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loving daughters and his beautiful gardens. Best known as a horticulturist, landscape designer and avid gardener, he was also a loving husband, inspirational father to his five children and wonderful “Opa” to his nine grandchildren.
Born in Nürtingen, Germany in 1929, Fritz was a graduate of the Weihenstephan School of Agriculture and Horticulture, a branch of the University of Munich. As part of his horticultural studies he would visit local nurseries and farms to observe and learn hands-on. On a serendipitous visit to his relative’s farm, he met Elisabeth Koenig, who would later become his beloved life partner. With his horticulture degree in hand and a sponsorship from Anna Feile, his mentor and life-long friend, Fritz made the life-changing decision to move to the United States. He arrived in New York by boat in 1954. After working for two years with Anna at Atlantic Nursery & Garden Shop in Freeport, he asked Elisabeth to join him in the US. They were married in 1956.
In 1966 Fritz and Elisabeth purchased land and a fixer-upper house in Dix Hills. As soon as the house was in livable condition Fritz began planting out lining out stock for their future nursery. In 1969 they started Atlantic Nurseries in Dix Hills, a landscape design/build firm and budding wholesale nursery.
Never without a pocketknife to collect precious cuttings, Fritz was always on the lookout for new and unusual plant varieties. Designers and horticulturists took interest in his collection of plants. Soon Atlantic Nurseries became the destination nursery for those looking for unique plants for their landscape projects. Fritz’s landscape design and gardening philosophy was simple: He believed that a garden should be an outdoor living room, a special place of refuge where one could enjoy time with family and nature’s beauty throughout the seasons. His plant selections, based on a philosophy of “Right Plant, Right Place” are evident in the timeless gardens he designed still enjoyed today throughout Long Island.
Throughout his life he loved to share his passion for all things green through hosting tours, seminars and an annual open house where he would walk visitors through his experimental “idea garden”. He instilled in many a love for horticulture. For his lifelong contributions to horticulture, he was awarded Long Island Nursery/Landscape Association’s “Man of the Year” award in 1984, and in 1987 was inducted into the New York State Nursery & Landscape Association Hall of Fame. In 2006 the Farmingdale College Foundation bestowed the Ram’s Horn award for his lifetime achievements.
Preceded in death by his loving partner of 60 years, Elisabeth Schaefer (Koenig), Fritz is survived by his children Martin (Karen), Biene (Susan), Irene (Drew), Dagmar (Kevin), Gisela (Roger), and grandchildren Chris, Alex, Hannah, Anja, Amelia, Sarah, Samantha, Jessica and Cooper.