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Small but mighty: The formidable Mary Williams

March is Women’s History Month where we celebrate female visionaries and trailblazers past and present. This year we’re shining the spotlight on healthcare resident Mary Williams for her role as business owner, honorary knight, community volunteer, grand marshal, wife, mother and grandmother.

For 51 years, Mary worked as a full-service florist at her flower shop, Sunny Wall Flowers, in Rolla. From weddings to funerals, school events and “just because” bouquets, Mary and her staff did it all six to seven days a week.

“It wasn’t just sticking flowers in vases. We did lots of different events, prepared for weddings of all kinds – in fact, the most weddings I did in one weekend was eight. One year the two largest weddings of the year were an hour and a half apart. We had two crews working to get them set up at the church and preparing the country club for the reception,” said Mary.

Mary enjoyed working with school kids, too.

“We had different school groups come through our shop – I’d have wet foam in paper cups and flowers for them to put in there and give to their moms and tell them they love them,” said Mary.

Mary and her floral business was the floral shop of choice for the local university, Missouri University of Science & Technology. In fact, because of her involvement with the school, Mary was chosen as an honorary knight at the local week-long St. Patrick’s celebration in 1978.

“The 25th year I had been doing flowers for the school, I was knighted. There were guards that escort you and St. Pat puts a heavy bronze medallion on you. It’s very well done,” said Mary.

In 2008, Mary had another role in the St. Patrick’s Day parade – this time as the grand marshal.

Throughout the years as a business owner, volunteer, philanthropist and parent, Mary said she never felt discriminated against as a woman. “My discrimination was that I was small.”

But Mary did share words of wisdom with her granddaughter. “I told her to get a degree, so it gives you some importance.”

And she had this advice for any young woman creating their path: “Any woman who’s interested in a field should try and get a job in the field because that’s how you find out what’s going on. If you want to own your own business, take some basic business courses. Pay attention to what’s being done.”

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