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Red Wing man brought beauty to his city

Obit Revoir, Philip

RED WING — Phil Revoir saw the beauty of Red Wing then he made it more beautiful. And he made sure that beauty would last.

Revoir, who died last week at the age of 86, left his mark on the city he loved in two major ways, not to mention the many friends and the family he left behind. The marks Revoir left on the city include the Red Wing flower baskets, the moss baskets filled with colorful flowers that can be found hanging from light poles throughout downtown, and a collection of photographs dating back to the late 1800s that help track the history of the city and Goodhue County.

Revoir started the flower basket program after a visit to Victoria, B.C., Canada, where the idea of hanging baskets of flowers came to him after touring the city's gardens.

"When he came back, he got together with the parks supervisor in Red Wing," said Sam Blue, a longtime friend of Revoir who helped him with the basket program for many years. "They started with eight baskets, all funded by the city at that time."

Today, more than 200 baskets a year — a few less in 2016 due to downtown construction — are installed around the city with the Noontime Kiwanis Club raising the funds.


"The baskets have become such an iconic symbol of Red Wing," said Patty Brown, executive director of the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's been a really good way to get us on the map."

The city works with the Kiwanis, Sargent's Nursery, Hallstrom's Greenhouse to fund, prep and care for the baskets. "It takes thousands of volunteers to water and fertilize them every day," she said.

While the flower baskets make Red Wing beautiful each year, Revoir's other mark on the city has kept alive the beauty of Red Wing dating back more than a century. From 2005 to 2014, Revoir, a professional photographer and a bit of a history buff, donated more than 10,000 photographs, negatives and postcards to the Goodhue County Historical Society.

The photos, said Afton Esson, archives and library manager for the GCHS museum in Red Wing, date back to the 1880s and include buildings, businesses, family portraits and school photos.

"He specialized in refurbishing photos," Esson said. "When people brought a photo in, he made a negative and kept a copy."

A lot of it is buildings in he county, family portraits, buildings, school photos.

"It's pretty vast," Esson said. "He was big into genealogy, and a lot of those photographs have an in-depth description with them."

Many of the older photos were purchased from a father and son duo who took pictures dating back to the 1800s. Those photos have been scanned, cataloged and given descriptions so the originals can be locked away. The gift is an important resource for the region, he said.


"He spent most of his life here, he definitely did love this town," Esson said.

While the photographs have been locked away after being scanned, they are visible throughout Red Wing, Brown said.

"The cool ting about the photographs is he'd restore those old photographs, those pieces of history, but you'll find them in businesses and museums around town," she said. "Everywhere you go, you see these wonderful historical photographs displayed."

For Blue, though, Revoir's passing is more than just about what he has done to support efforts throughout Red Wing such as the baskets, the city's history or more recently the work the Kiwanis are doing with Memorial Park, it's about losing someone who cared for the community.

"We all miss him," Blue said. "He was a great asset."

Phil Revoir Collection.jpg
This photo, circa 1890, looking over the residential area of Red Wing toward Barn Bluff is part of the collection of about 10,000 photos, negatives and post cards donated to the Goodhue County Historical Society by Phil Revoir. Revoir died last week at the age of 86.

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