Dave Thacker, the founder of Pa’s Pumpkin Patch and Snowy Pines Christmas Trees lot, would have celebrated his 44th year running the businesses.
Instead, family and friends are mourning the loss of a man who brought holiday cheer to Long Beach. Dave, who lived in Oregon, was diagnosed with cancer and died on Monday, July 22. He was 69.
His son, Ted Thacker, who owns Thacker Berry Farms (the company puts strawberry stands on various street corners in Long Beach), said he and his mother, Gail Thacker, would carry on with the family businesses.
“It’s going to be hard walking around Pa’s Pumpkin Patch without ‘Pa’ there,” Ted said. “He was a good man with a good heart.”
According to his son, Dave was born in West Virginia in 1943 and was brought up in a poor family. Dave’s father died when he was just a boy, so he started selling Christmas trees on the street to help his mother make ends meet.
“It’s funny that ended up being his future, selling Christmas trees,” Ted said, adding that his father joined the military and worked a few other jobs before Dave and Gail started Pa’s Pumpkin Patch and Snowy Pines — the businesses originally started near Ximeno Avenue and Atherton Street, later moving to Redondo Avenue and Stearns Street before finally moving to Pacific Coast Highway south of the Marketplace more than a decade ago.
“Mom was pregnant with me and working the cash booth,” Ted said about the first pumpkin patch. “I grew up on the pumpkin patch, wearing the Halloween masks we had for sale… And, when I was as young as 8 years old, Dad would drive all the way to Oregon, and we would hand tag every tree.”
Snowy Pines offers customers more than trees. Ted said his father, who lived in Long Beach for many years before moving the family to a tree farm in Oregon, always made sure hot cocoa and popcorn were available so that people could spend some time enjoying their walk in “the forest” of Christmas trees.
Pa’s Pumpkin Patch, in particular, has become a tradition for many families in the community. Ted said the patch is more than a place to buy pumpkins, but also a place for families to enjoy entertainment such as “kiddie rides” and petting zoos.
One of the attractions at the patch is face painting and pumpkin painting, which is done by long-time employee Carol Beyer. Beyer, and other employees, said “Pa” from the pumpkin patch would be missed.
“He brought so much joy every year to Long Beach,” she said.
Ted said he plans to keep the family business going, hoping to eventually pass it on to his two sons when he retires. Already, his two boys have started helping out.
There was a memorial service in Oregon last week, as well as a candlelight vigil at the Pa’s Pumpkin Patch site in Long Beach.
Ted said he plans to have a plaque set up in his father’s memory at the pumpkin patch.
Condolence cards are being collected for the family at the SeaPort Marina Hotel, at Second Street and PCH.
Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.