This past Monday, I received an email that I’d been dreading for a while — but had been preparing for. It was from our friend Mark Johnson, who said that his 87-year old mother Marie — Grass Valley’s beloved “Flower Lady” to all of us — was winding down. We spoke on the phone for some time. I knew it would only be a matter of time.
On Facebook, word of Marie’s condition began to leak out later in the week. Her friends were visiting her bedside. I felt comforted to read that. I discussed Marie’s condition with our family, and we all said prayers for her, along with Mark and his brother Todd.
This morning, Marie, 87, passed away. Like much of Grass Valley and Nevada City, we all will miss her.
We have been regulars at Foothill Flowers for a decade, and Marie was like a grandmother to our son after his own grandmother died in 2007. Marie would greet him in the flower shop with a big smile, “Hi Mitchell!” — and often a handful of suckers or M&Ms.
Our son came to anticipate an annual “back to school” flower bouquet that had Marie’s special touch — a porcelain sports car filled with fresh and colorful flowers. In subsequent years, we brought the toy car into the shop for a “refill” each September.
For my wife and I, Marie helped fill a void after we lost our own parents. We shared stories, and I learned about her upbringing. She was an inspiring single mom and entrepreneur, opening her flower shop in downtown Grass Valley in 1966.
Like others, we enjoyed gathering at Marie’s annual Santa Lucia festival at the flower shop in December and learned about her Scandinavian heritage. We met the Johnson’s friends, including author Gage McKinney, one of my favorite people. It was a quintessential small-town experience.
We also talked flowers with Marie. My mom taught me to admire fresh bouquets of flowers. I told Marie about my favorite florist when I was growing up — Jacob Maarse in Pasadena — and was thrilled when I learned that Todd regularly decorated floats in the Rose Parade. It was like reliving a joyful part of my childhood as an adult in Grass Valley.
Earlier in the week, Mark shared with me that Marie would be buried next to her daughter in Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Grass Valley. (Beth died in a 1976 car accident, when she was a junior at NU).
A celebration of live is planned at Foothill Flowers on September 15, and the historic building will be filled with admiring friends and family members.
The Union’s obituary about Marie is here.