It might seem that the hands more accustomed to dunking basketballs would not be the same hands that delighted in rooting in the soil around his beloved rose bushes.

Those rugged hands belonged to Lawrence Earl Clark, who died Dec. 18, 2011 of cancer. He was 57 and had worked for 38 years at Park Road Shopping Center. Most of his time was devoted to caring for the flourishing rose plants.

Earl, a New Orleans native, came to Charlotte as a child. He was a 1972 graduate of West Mecklenburg High School, where he played for the West Meck Indians basketball team.

“He was a joyful type guy,” said teammate Michael Johnson. “He loved laughter, loved kids and was an entertaining guy who could have fun anywhere he goes. Once you met him, you’d never forget him. He carried a golden heart and was a people-person who definitely loved his job and the rose garden.”

Friend Gary Berryman had worked with Earl about seven years. “He’d tell me about the roses and call me a greenhorn. His number one job was the rose garden – they called him the Rose Man. He’d say, ‘Here, smell this perfect rose; it smells so good,’ ” Gary said.

“He was the greatest ambassador Park Road Shopping Center ever had,” owner Porter Byrum told his assistant, retired minister Allen Laymon. “People in the shopping center thought the world of Earl,” the reverend said. “He was very well loved.”

Some of those roses found their way home to Earl’s wife, Joann. “He would bring them home in buckets and I put them in vases all through the house. They dug up about 550 rose bushes when he could not take care of them,” she said.

“He did maintenance and a little bit of everything,” Joann said, “but mostly the roses – Earl loved his roses and had a green thumb.”

Earl was an outgoing person, his wife said. “He’d talk to anybody. He just loved to talk to people, whether he knew them or not.”

Earl and Joann had been close for many years before their 2006 marriage. He helped her raise daughters April and Tracy.

“He was a wonderful man, and when he walked into a room, it lit up and made your day,” Tracy Rorie said. “He walked me down the aisle when I got married in 2009; he was a loving, giving, family man.”

They knew Earl would not likely make it until Christmas, so the family celebrated a week early so that he could enjoy his five grandsons.

“He loved his grandchildren,” April Reid said. “He loved going to the beach and spending time with the kids and Mom. He also loved going to work for Mr. Byrum and seeing people at the shopping center.”

We’re sure that there are sweet-smelling, perfect roses in heaven, and we know Earl will be right at home tending them.

Editor’s note: This is our series called Lives That Matter. Written by Charlotte writer Gerry Hostetler, this weekly feature will profile individuals, recently deceased, who had a positive impact on those around them. Email

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