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Anchorage’s Jean Jilwan ‘The Flower Man’ passed away

Jilwan (right) passed away recently at age 67. Better known for the flowers he sold to late night crowds, the bars and patrons of downtown Anchorage say Jilwan was a staple that couldn't be replaced.
Jilwan (right) passed away recently at age 67. Better known for the flowers he sold to late night crowds, the bars and patrons of downtown Anchorage say Jilwan was a staple that couldn't be replaced.(Katie Pesznecker)
Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 7:56 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - If you didn’t know his name, you still may very well have bought one of his flowers while out for the evening in Anchorage. Better known as “The Flower Man,” Jean Jilwan, 67, has passed away.

According to the bars of downtown Anchorage, Jilwan was a beloved staple in the nightlife scene. For well over 35 years, he went to all the bars and clubs with bouquets in hand ready to sell to happy patrons.

If you think selling flowers was Jilwan’s side gig, you’d be “absolutely wrong” says his vendor, Aram Markossian, owner of Cedar’s Wholesale Flowers.

“That’s what he did,” Markossian said. “It’s not like this was a second job for him. This was the main thing, the main income, for years and years. He knew everybody in town. He’d go downtown and talk to people and everybody knew Jean. Especially people who were regulars at the bars. They knew him.”

Markossian said Jilwan was selling flowers to bar patrons before he had set up his store more than three decades ago; during that time, they became like family. Markossian said Jilwan came to his wedding, his children’s baptisms and birthday parties, and many other significant events.

He said the days at the flower shop would start and Jilwan would be there. They’d enjoy coffee at the shop together before Jilwan picked out which flowers he would take to the streets to sell at $5 a stem. Markossian said most days were like this — weekdays and weekends.

Once he made his choice, it was off to pretty much every bar in town. Every single establishment that Alaska’s News Source reporters visited knew Jilwan and were either sad because they already knew of his passing or shocked to hear about it.

At Darwin’s Theory, some of the staff took it upon themselves to deliver some of Markossian’s flowers to the other bars in town in memorial, as well as to Jilwan’s brother who also lives in town.

A lot of people got those flowers. Markossian said “only God knows” how many he sold to Jilwan over the years. A handful of them ended up with Monica Repuya, who’s lived in Anchorage all her life.

Some time ago, she said her boyfriend couldn’t resist the convenient romantic gesture while they were out.

“When we first started dating, he would see him and walk away from me and then he’d come back with a flower,” Repuya said, “I’d see him, I’d see Jean with the flowers and I’m like, ‘Don’t you dare do what you’re about to do,’ but of course, he’d still buy me a flower.”

That guy is now Repuya’s fiance. She attributed some of his success to buying Jilwan’s flowers for her so often.

Repuya said Jilwan was the kind of person who was always pleasant to see. She said he carried himself with a positive atmosphere that never faltered, even after an unsuccessful sale. She said the bars won’t feel the same without him walking around with his flowers.

Markossian said Jilwan’s stories about work confirmed that. Even though he made a living selling flowers to the inebriated patrons of Anchorage bars late at night, he never had a bad day on the job.

“He never got any hard times, no one ever attacked him, no one ever talked badly about him,” Markossian said.

Admittedly, Markossian said the pandemic put Jilwan in a slump. He wasn’t able to do his job that brought him joy because the bars were closed. However, the memories he left behind are nothing but fond, and the late-night crowd feels this loss will leave a void that won’t easily be filled.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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