Resident Spotlight: Mary Graves brings joy with flowers and cakes


Mary Graves minMary Graves brings joy with flowers and cakes!

Mary Graves loves flowers. Her grandmother’s yard was full of flowers, and she always made sure her Harrisburg home was alive with colorful blooms.

“I’ve got roses,” she says. “I’ve got petunias and azaleas. I have so much planted, I don’t know what it is.”

A Homeland resident since earlier this year, Mary and her sister grew up in Reidsville, North Carolina, on the tobacco farm owned by her grandfather. Raised by her grandparents after her mother died, she wasn’t expected to do many chores, but she did learn to milk the cows.

After she moved to Steelton as a young mother, she found work as an LPN. Her love for flowers kept calling, and she acquired a shop in Harrisburg that sold plants. The previous owner left many of his materials behind, and she decided to learn how to use them by attending a school for flower arranging.

“I love flowers, and I love people,” she says. The shop sold flowers and arrangements for all of life’s occasions – Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, weddings, funerals. When family and friends need flowers, she is there. She worked on the flowers for a granddaughter’s wedding.

Today, she helps Homeland Board of Managers members every Friday, making the floral arrangements that grace the tables in every dining room – a charming example of the creation of Homeland’s home-like feel.

She enjoys getting together with her friends from the Red Hat Society, the organization of women who make a point of wearing red hats while going out together. She got involved through her church, where she was a member of the usher board and helped support mission work.

Mary also once took a class on cake decorating but added her special touch. They were making cakes that looked like Easter baskets and instead of using boxed cake mix, she used a recipe handed down by her great-grandmother.

“Our cake’s got a whole bunch of eggs, milk, sugar and everything else you need,” she says. “We’d make that cake from scratch, and grandma sifted that flour four times.”

Mary and her cakes become so popular that she made them for family and friends. She once made 32 Barbie cakes – the types with a doll at the top and the cake serving as the skirt – for all the guests at her granddaughter’s sixth birthday party. For a grandson, she made a cake football field, complete with football.

BOM Karen Ball Mary Graves minEven for her 85th birthday, celebrated at Homeland, Mary’s daughter-in-law made the special cake for family and friends to enjoy.

When Board of Managers member Karen Ball delivered a cheery birthday card that day, Mary told her that she’s happy to usher in her 86th year, following in the footsteps of a great-grandmother, who lived to 117.