Family, friends remember Franklin Street flower lady

kferral@newsobserver.comJuly 21, 2012 

— Chapel Hill has lost one of the last living Franklin Street flower ladies.

Family and friends celebrated the life of Bettie Stone Jones, 104, with music, prayer and some laughs Friday at First Baptist Church downtown. She died July 11.

Jones was born in 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt was president.

She loved flowers, worked hard and devoted herself to her church and her family.

Her happiness came from working in her garden and on her farm and, for half a century, selling flowers to thousands of residents, students and tourists on Franklin Street.

“Her greatest joy was selling her flowers,” said Venus Jones Campbell, her granddaughter. “She was high-spirited; she was loving, caring. She was everybody’s mother.”

Selling flowers

About eight black women began selling flowers on Franklin Street shortly after the Great Depression. They became known as the flower ladies and at one time numbered as many as 18.

Jones was genuine and straightforward, friends and relatives said.

“When Bettie Jones spoke, people listened to her,” said the Rev. J.R. Manley, the retired pastor of First Baptist Church, who spoke at her funeral. “She believed in walking her walk and talking her talk.”

“She meant what she said,” said Carrie Bynum, who served as a deaconess with Jones. “She was dynamic. Whatever she said is what Miss Bettie meant.”

Jones was a long-time deaconess and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist and often dressed the pulpit with her flowers.

“She was very concerned that we learned everything we needed to learn about the Bible,” said Orange County Commissioner Valerie Foushee, who was in Jones’ Sunday school class. “She was insistent we were reverent in church.”

After church on Sundays, Jones and her husband, Samuel William Jones, who died in 1996, often would walk across the street to Mama Dips restaurant for lunch.

Owner Mildred Council got to know Jones when she’d stop in for fried chicken, cornbread and sweet potatoes.

“She knew what she was about: her flowers,” said Council, sitting in a back pew Friday.

Jones moved to Dallas, Texas, five years ago to live with Campbell.

“I really missed her,” Council said.

Home on the farm

Jones was born in Bingham Township in rural Orange County. While she sold flowers, she also ran a full farm where she milked cows, gathered eggs, raised and cured her meats, and grew all the vegetables she ate. She also baked her own bread and made butter and ice cream.

Jones participated in the freedom marches for civil rights and was jailed in 1960 for marching. She was later awarded a signed photograph from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The flower ladies largely disappeared from Franklin Street in the late 1970s, after the town banned sidewalk selling.

Friends and family said goodbye to Jones as they streamed past a white casket draped with pink roses and white carnations.

Ferral: 919-932-8746

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