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Larry Bakker, founder of LDS, leaves behind lasting legacy

February 20, 2019 -  By
Larry Bakker (left), pictured with Marty Grunder (center) and son Matt Bakker (right). (Photo: Marty Grunder)

Larry Bakker (left), pictured with Marty Grunder (center) and son Matt Bakker (right). (Photo: Marty Grunder)

A Michigan landscape industry legacy has died. Larry Bakker, the founder of Landscape Design Services (LDS), died on Jan. 9, while in Florida. He was 77.

Larry built his legacy with leadership, positivity and an extraordinary team culture. “Dad was more than just a boss at LDS,” said Matt Bakker, Larry’s son. “In his 40 years of leadership, he hired countless team members, and treated and cared for them like family.”

Today, the full-service landscape company in west Michigan has grown to 150-plus team members. Even after retiring in December 2008, Larry still came to weekly meetings and built relationships with new team members at LDS, Matt said. Matt and his brother Jeremy grew up in the business and have been in leadership roles since Larry retired. “It was great working with Dad in the family business,” Matt said. “Growing up, Dad was always in our lives, but the blessing of working alongside the man for 26 years allowed me to see another side of him.”

Larry served in many organizations in the industry, one of them being the Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA), where he was a board member and president. Amy Upton, MNLA executive director, said Larry was an innovator in the landscape industry. “When he served on the board (at MNLA), he looked at all segments and was very thoughtful before making decisions on policy,” she said. “There was no question about it, he simply cared about our industry.”

In 1990, Larry received the Member of the Year Award and in 2012 the Half Century Club Award from MNLA. “If I needed anything, he was there, even after he retired,” Upton said. “I often asked if he wanted to come back on the board, and he would just smile.”

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Danielle Pesta

About the Author:

Danielle Pesta is the senior digital media manager at Landscape Management's parent company, North Coast Media. She started writing for the green industry in 2014 and has won multiple awards from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA). She can be reached at

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