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Emily Racy Tabor Jones was born in Asheville in 1893 to Larkin and Fannie Tabor. She married Manley Eugene Jones in 1921 at the age of 19. They used to sell wood and kindling, until gas and electric stoves came along. He died in 1964.
She did not attend school, nor could she read or write. Working on the assumption that “everybody likes flowers,” she made it on her own selling flowers for almost 60 years on Charlotte Street in front of the former Ingles Grocery Store. That’s when Mission Hospital stood on the corner of Charlotte and Woodfin. She sold from the sidewalk beside the hospital.
Bob Terrell wrote about her in 1970. “People come from ‘fur and nigh’ to buy from me,” she told him. “They come from Canton, Old Fort, Burnsville, all around.”
Glads are her favorite flower.
She had many friends and customers, including Fred Wolfe who came by on Fridays to buy flowers to put on his family’s graves. She was quite fond of former mayor Gene Ochsenreiter. At one time he owned the lot there and rented it to someone for a car lot who told her she had to leave. She said, “Ochsenreiter told them to rope me off a place and let me be or they’d have to leave.”
Emily later sold her flowers and at the entrance to Penny’s Department Store on Battery Park.
Her obituary said she was “the last of Asheville’s ‘flower girls,’ mountain women who gathered mountain greenery and wildflowers and sold them to tourists. Later, she had flowers trucked to her. The Asheville Merchants Association made her an honorary member. Emily Jones died in 1985 at the age of 92.
After reading Emily Jones’s obituary, a woman wrote her thoughts to the Asheville Citizen-Times “Backtalk” section and it was titled Monument To Emily:
“It would be wonderful to see this part of the city more full of life and to have more monuments of people and places we would all like to remember. One such monument should be for Emily Jones and dedicated to the last of an era of “flower ladies” in Asheville. The monument could be located in a flower bed, like the one in City-County Plaza. I’m sure she would appreciate being remembered by her home town, and it would bring alive some of Asheville’s history.”
Post by Zoe Rhine, North Carolina Room librarian