Some stop to smell the roses – Loretta Parker enjoys working with them.

Some stop to smell the roses – Loretta Parker enjoys working with them.

Smiling from her stance at 4 feet and 10 inches, Loretta still enjoys her profession at the Webb City Florist at the age of 87. For this article, her sweet humbleness was overcome by her family and coworkers' pride in her long history with the little shop at 1001 S. Jefferson St., and her ongoing talent in flower arranging.

“People come in and say 'you're still here?'” Loretta said. “I say 'yeah, they can't get rid of me.'”

“When she retires I told her to let me know so I can sell my shop,” said current owner Marsha Musgrove with a laugh. “She's a blessing to have here. She's wonderful – she wouldn't tell you how wonderful she is – but I will.”

With her arm around Loretta, Marsha said, “this little package is dynamite. She's been a great teacher for all of us … I remember when I first saw her. She was standing right over there, and said she didn't know if I wanted her or not.”

“I didn't really have an interview,” Loretta laughed. “I liked her right from the start.”

The Webb City Florist began with an idea from Loretta's father, J. Randal Miller. After Loretta’s work in the Florist in Carthage, her father thought she needed a shop to call her own. In 1968, Loretta rushed to a little building in Webb City.

“I couldn't wait to get here,” she said, remembering those early days. “We used to work all day then go square-dancing all night. Then we'd eat at Judy's Diner in Jasper … We were full of it.”

The florist profession is not for the faint of heart. Loretta said she can't tell which holidays are busiest: Valentine’s Day, Mother's Day or Prom.

“There are no two days alike,” she said. “You have to have a knack for it … After you do it a million jillion times it's easy.”

Ever since her first days arranging flowers, Loretta's eye for design has been considered contemporary. Marsha shared Loretta also has a talent of learning just what her customers want and like. But, her favorite arrangements to do are for funerals.

“I know it sounds morbid but I like the challenge of it,” she said. “The casket arrangement is the main thing – it's very important to the people.”

Marsha chimed in, “she prays over the flowers before she sends them.”

Loretta stayed with the shop over the years as it changed hands to Kelly and Christi Cleveland for a six-year stretch, then to Loretta's favorite boss – her son. For 10 years, Mark Parker and his wife, Ann, owned and operated the shop with Loretta. Mark wasn't new to the florist atmosphere; during his senior year in high school, he started delivering flowers for his mother.

“We never had an argument,” Loretta said with a smile. “I was fortunate to have three perfect kids … And they all married wonderful people.”

Loretta's loving family was established by her parents, J. Randal and Bessie Miller. When she was born, she said her parents weren't expecting her.

“When I was born you only went to the hospital when the baby was born,” she said. “My twin sister, Lois, was born, then I was ... I came in completely undetected.”

After graduating from the Carthage High School in 1944, Loretta married Mervin Parker. Together, they had three children, Kenney, Lynn (Shelley) and Mark. Today, Loretta and Mervin have six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

“I've had a wonderful life,” Loretta said.