Bob Best had died the night before, but the next morning crowds of children giggled and squealed their way through the pumpkin patch he helped create.
Bob and his wife, Diana, would have it no other way. This is the season for pumpkins and goblins and ghosts, and this is the time of the year that hordes of excited school kids make field trips to visit the Best family and their sea of orange on Fortson Road.
Kids get lost in the pumpkin maze and take bumpy hayrides over a spooky trail decorated with spiders, skeletons and cobwebs. They pose for pictures next to scarecrows and colorful mums and wonder why some pumpkins are big and some are tiny.
Looking around them, they know Halloween is near and they feel safe in a setting whose slogan is "No tricks. Just treats."
It would have been easy for Diana to close Best Landscaping and Nursery last Thursday. She had just lost her husband of 33 years. People would understand if the business didn't open, for the man known as Mr. Pumpkin was its heart and soul.
Then Diana thought of the disappointed children. Several school groups were coming that morning and she knew those youngsters had been looking forward to that day for so long. Tears would have to wait.
The Bests started this tradition 12 years ago. October was a slow month in the landscaping business, so in 1999 they escaped to Dillard, Ga. While they were in the mountains, they went to a pumpkin patch on the side of the road and were impressed with the colors of fall and the shelves of pumpkins.
"We can do that," Diana said.
So Bob did. It was her dream, but climbing aboard his tractor, he did the heavy lifting. They created displays of corn stalks and fall flowers and sold homegrown products made from pumpkins -- including pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pie in a jar.
Their dream never stopped growing. This year they imported more than 200,000 pounds of pumpkins from Michigan and more than 10,000 people have visited the patch, most of them children.
Bob loved plants and he made his mark in landscaping. After his death, the family received warm messages from business people whose grounds he cared for. Bob kept their shrubs tended but he always had time to tend to his customers.
He also loved Diana's pumpkin patch and, a week before he died, the last photograph of them together was taken there. Bob was in his overalls and she wore a pumpkin patch visor.
Theirs was a family business, run by Bob, Diana and their son Matthew. The last of this year's pumpkins are being sold today, and while they're busy Diana has one final chore for her husband: "Make heaven more beautiful."
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.