Facilities Housekeeper Ryan Lamore’s Dahlia Deliveries Help Him Cope with Loss of Wife

A man in a blue shirt hands a single flower to a woman sitting at her office desk Image by Ed Brennen
Ryan Lamore, a housekeeper with Facilities Management, delivers a dahlia from his home garden to Karen Mullins, a graduate advisor in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies.

By Ed Brennen

For the past decade, Ryan Lamore has been growing dahlias along the stone wall outside his century-old home in Dracut, Massachusetts. When the flowers bloom, he likes to bring them to work at UMass Lowell and share them with faculty, staff and students.

“I’m trying to make UMass Lowell a better place,” says Lamore, a housekeeper on the Facilities Management team since 2015. “It makes me feel good that people enjoy them so much.” 

Thanks to a rainy summer, Lamore’s dahlia garden has been more abundant than ever this year, with each of his 140 plants producing up to 20 of the dazzling blooms.

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

A wedding photo of a man in a black tux and a woman in a white dress Image by courtesy
Ryan Lamore and Laura LeSaffre got married in 2012. She was originally from Melrose, Massachusetts.
“I feel like she might have something to do with why they’re growing so well this year,” Lamore says. “With all the rain, I saw so many rainbows this summer. I take it as a sign from her, which is comforting.”

‘We’re Lucky to Have Him’

Lamore is assigned to the Donna Manning Health and Social Sciences building on South Campus. The people who work, teach and learn inside the building have come to appreciate the unexpected gifts from his garden. And those who learned of his late wife’s diagnosis have done their best to comfort and support him.

“He’s such a wonderful, kind soul who cheers us up 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 has “tried to be an ear” for Lamore. 

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

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

A man in a blue shirt poses for a photo with a woman as they both hold flowers Image by Ed Brennen
School of Criminology and Justice Studies Office Manager Eika Hunt likes to bring Ryan Lamore homemade sourdough bread every week.
Eika Hunt, office manager for the School of Criminology and Justice Studies, is an avid sourdough bread baker. She brings Lamore a loaf every week.

“We are very lucky to have him,” Hunt says. “He’s so thoughtful, bringing us flowers. He puts us in a really great mood at work.”
Jayne Ducharme, coordinator of college-based advising in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, recently nominated Lamore for a KUDOS award for “bringing beauty and joy” to the building.

“Ryan does his job very well, but he has gone above and beyond 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 that I have never seen before.”

Lamore says the people in the building, along with the understanding of his managers and the generosity of co-workers who covered his shifts when he had to be at the hospital, allowed him to take care of Laura the past four years.

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

Finding His Passion

Originally from Ipswich, Massachusetts, Lamore met Laura in Boston. They got married in 2012 and moved to Lowell when she took a job 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 while holding flowers Image by Ed Brennen
Ryan Lamore likes to grow dahlias because "they are pretty," but adds, "I wish they would last longer."
Lamore worked nights and weekends as a food and beverage manager at Merrimack College, a job that left him little time to see Laura. So, in 2015, he joined the UML staff. Laura soon began working on a doctorate in music at Boston University.

Around that time, Lamore was introduced to dahlias by his best friend’s father, who needed help planting the perennials in his yard. Lamore learned that you have to dig up the tubers in the fall, storing them inside over the winter before replanting them in the spring. 

“Each plant gives five the next year,” says Lamore, who has around 35 varieties in his garden. 

Lamore learned how to crossbreed the flowers and has created his own variety, which he calls “Dracut Red.” He hopes to have it certified by the National Dahlia Society.

“It became a passion for me,” he says.

But as Laura’s condition worsened earlier this year, Lamore didn’t think he would plant the flowers.

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

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

After Laura died, one of her brothers suggested that Lamore plant the dahlias and “think of her while doing it.” So, a 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 Lamore, who may sell some of the dahlias to raise money for a scholarship fund in Laura’s name.

But until the first frost hits, he will continue clipping the dahlias and sharing them with people at UML.

“I’m still grieving. Giving people the flowers this year has been cheering me up,” he says after delivering a single cut 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.”