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Don't be afraid of the flowers

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Mary Williams[/caption]

With five decades in the business of flowers, Mary Williams knows her way around decorating with blooms and greens. What’s surprising is how many people are intimidated by the idea of using fresh flowers in their décor.

If you’re one of them, Mary has good news.

“Just enjoy them. If you fix a vase of flowers, and your husband or your neighbor doesn’t like them, so what?” said Mary, who moved to Rolla Presbyterian Manor last year. “They can be such a delight. They brighten the room. They brighten your soul. I like to say that when God made the earth, he put flowers on it to make smiles.”

Mary is the former owner of Sunny Wall Flowers and Gifts. She closed the business in 2009 after operating it for 51 years. It was a seven-day-a-week business, which didn’t leave her much time to make a hobby out of gardening or decorating for herself.

She spent many years teaching others how to incorporate fresh flowers into their environment.

Mary did many outreach programs for high school home economics classes and other small groups to teach them the basics of creating arrangements. One of her most popular lessons was showing people how to make three arrangements for different parts of their home from a dozen fresh cut flowers.

Over the years, Mary was recognized as one of the most successful businesswomen in the Rolla area. She and her husband started by taking over a local greenhouse. Later, they started a floral and gift shop, which eventually grew to three locations.

Running the business left little down time, Mary said, because she made it work to support the family, including her two sons. It was hard work, but she had good, loyal customers. Over time, she often found herself doing multiple weddings for the same family.

“They wouldn’t come back to you if you weren’t doing a good job,” she said. The Order of the Golden Shillelagh, a fundraising organization at Missouri S&T, hired Mary to decorate their annual induction ceremony for 25 years. She was even knighted by the group in recognition of her contributions.

Mary’s energy and perseverance seem boundless, so it may be surprising to learn that doctors predicted she wouldn’t live past the age of 18. She had radiation treatments as a child for Hodgkin’s disease, which weakened her heart. Mary proved them wrong, and is nearing her 85th birthday. Mary said she chose to live at Presbyterian Manor when she needed extra assistance because her parents also were residents here.

“I’ve been blessed to have good people with me and to have God with me,” she said. “This town has supported me in many ways. Now that I live here, I see so many people that I know!

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