Mary Lovejoy

Lovely flower arrangements accompany each meal at the Charlotte Senior Center. Mary Lovejoy, the woman responsible for these pops of sunshine, essential now that the weather is so glum, has been creating them weekly for over two years.

Accompanied by her trusty assistant, Jim, who is also her husband, Mary picks out flowers every week from Trader Joe’s and brings them to the Senior Center; while she fills the vases, Jim volunteers and washes dishes. She said she’s the creative one in the couple, and he’s happy to do the washing up both at the Senior Center and at home, while she prefers to make an artistic mess.

A former commercial artist who worked in Washington, D.C., Mary went to interior design school and dedicated her creative impulses to painting for many years. “That takes a lot of time and work,” she said, but the flowers are a perfect outlet. “This is kind of quick and simple, and it makes people happy, and it makes me happy.”

Her efforts don’t go unappreciated by the Senior Center patrons. “Somebody always tells me every week, we just love the flowers,” she said, but the pleasure is hers, too. “It’s been great both ways,” she said. “I just love doing it…I just love going and picking the flowers out, and picking the theme, and it works for them and it works for me.”

Mary said she bases her selections around the seasons. Though she doesn’t have a favorite flower, she said mums are always a good choice because they’re hardy, and the arrangements need to last the whole week. The flowers come out of the Senior Center’s budget, and the cost comes out to about $25 a week. She has a stash of vases at the center that she will occasionally swap out, though right now she prefers some glass turquoise ones that she said go well with the brightly colored flowers.

A mother of one and grandmother of three, Mary, who is 78, said that though she was hesitant at first to make such a big commitment—a weekly job can be a lot—she eventually realized that it was bringing more purpose to her life.

“What I realize with this happening is that when you get older, you still really need to have something that feeds your soul, whatever it is. Whether it’s playing bridge or going out to lunch with your friends, we all need something,” she said. “I just love flowers.”