Community mourns loss of ‘gracious lady’

Published 9:03 pm Monday, January 17, 2011

Hearts are heavy today for those who knew and loved Mary Huner Johnson.

Her death Friday spread a cloak of sadness over the Troy community that Johnson had called home for most of her 88 years and few knew how to put into words the sense of loss they felt.

“There just aren’t enough words,” said Robbin Smolcic, who attended St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church with her. “Mary was the type person that, when you saw her, you felt good. That feeling was brought on by someone who genuinely cared for you and didn’t mind saying the words, ‘I love you’ and they came from the heart and soul. Mary made you feel like you were one of the most special people on the earth. She had that beauty about her and that was a gift from God.

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“You just felt so good about being in Mary’s presence. She first touched her you with her smile and it was never pretentious or with an agenda. It was wholesome and real. I really enjoyed being Mary’s friend.”

Mary Huner Johnson was a hometown girl who married Stanley Huner, a young man from New Orleans who came to Troy to play baseball. The couple lived in New Orleans from 1942 until 1948 and then moved back to Troy where he went into business at the Riverside Café with her dad, Charlie Childs. Huner later took over the operation of the Riverside Café, which was the number-one, late night eatery in Troy until it closed in 1971.

In the front on the café, there was a place where Mary Huner arranged artificial flowers. In 1970, she opened Flowers by Mary on South Brundidge Street, which was a successful business until it closed in 1986.

Mary Huner Johnson was a part of the Troy business community for nearly four decades and was well known for her artistic abilities. But, her son Herb Huner of Troy, remembers her as a devoted mom and her extended family knew her as a loving and caring Southern lady. “Mother always put her family first,” Huner said. “She would protect us against anything. She was a mom a long time. I was the oldest of six children and I was 16 years old when my youngest sister was born..”

Tracie Huner knew Mary Huner Johnson, first, as the lady who made beautiful arrangements at Flowers by Mary and then as a grandmother by marriage.

“Nanny was 88 years old but it didn’t seem like it,” Huner said. “She was still wearing high heels and she was always dressed to a tee. She was a true Southern lady and she was beautiful on the outside and on the inside.”

Huner said Mary Huner Johnson never met a stranger. “She always embraced you and gave you a hug and said, ‘I love you, baby,’ and it didn’t matter who it was, she always ended by saying ‘I love you, baby,’” Huner said.

“We would see Nanny every week at church. She was a devout Catholic and didn’t miss a Mass. And, she always told the children that she loved them.”