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Saturday, September 25, 2021

‘It's a staggering loss for the community’: Gainesville honors the life of hit-and-run victim known as 'Granny'

<p>The first memorial service for "Granny" took place Tuesday at Bo Diddley Plaza. City Commissioner David Arreola attended the service and posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, "Granny's babies came to say goodbye."</p>

The first memorial service for "Granny" took place Tuesday at Bo Diddley Plaza. City Commissioner David Arreola attended the service and posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, "Granny's babies came to say goodbye."

Rose McDonald-Loston, better known as “Granny,” was a familiar face in downtown Gainesville. 

Despite her struggles with homelessness and health, the elderly woman faced the world with a smile. She had a knack for remembering names and knowing if someone was ever upset, said Gainesville resident Michael Bobbitt, 44, who said he knew her for about a decade. 

“Why don’t you tell Granny what’s wrong,” Bobbitt said she asked him when he was upset. And then she advised him, “Nothing is as ugly as love is beautiful.” 

“The number of lives that she touched was incredible for somebody who had so little and struggled with so much,” Bobbitt said.

More than a month after McDonald-Loston, 64, was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Waldo Road, the Gainesville Police Department has released her identification to the public. Sgt. Jorge Campos, the spokesperson for GPD, said traffic homicide investigators are still investigating the crash. 

He said he’s not aware of any leads yet. 

McDonald-Loston was one of four people killed in a pedestrian or bicyclist related crash in January –– a number authorities called higher than usual for the time of year. 

Three days before McDonald-Loston was killed, 16-year-old DJ Washington and 21-year-old UF student Denise Griffiths were killed just hours apart in separate pedestrian crashes. 

Authorities shared McDonald-Loston’s identity with the community after exhausting all attempts to find her next-of-kin, an event Campos called “extremely rare.” 

“We had to scour through records to see if we could identify a next of kin to notify,” Campos said, adding that unlike McDonald-Loston, most people have information attached to official records that help identify their next-of-kin. 

Since the news of McDonald-Loston’s death was announced, members of the community have rallied to honor the life of the beloved woman.  

Residents held a memorial service for her Tuesday evening and will hold another Friday afternoon at Bo Diddley Plaza, where Bobbitt said he’ll read an elegy he wrote in her honor. Gainesville city officials David Arreola and Adrian Hayes-Sandos were invited. 

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Arreola told The Alligator that he’ll be at Friday’s vigil. 

In the poem, Bobbitt describes his first encounters with McDonald-Loston: 

“‘I’m praying for you, honey,’

She would say,

Long before she learned my name.

Long before I had come to rely

On the bright light of her face,”

Bobbitt, a local playwright, met her while he wrote plays in the courtyard outside of Maude’s Cafe in downtown Gainesville. He said the two spent most of their time together singing karaoke at University Club, the gay nightclub down the street. 

“It’s a staggering loss for the community,” he said. 

While Bobbitt said it’s been great to see the outpouring of support for McDonald-Loston, he wants people to use her death as a “call of arms” to be better. 

“If someone like Granny who was universally loved didn't get the help that she needed all the time, what about the people who aren't beloved sainted local celebrities?” he said. 

As GPD’s traffic homicide unit investigates her death, the department is asking anyone with information about the accident to contact the non-emergency number at 352-955-1818 or Traffic Homicide Investigator Ofc. A. Moore at 352-393-7744.

Contact Alex DeLuca at adeluca@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlexLDeLuca.  

The first memorial service for "Granny" took place Tuesday at Bo Diddley Plaza. City Commissioner David Arreola attended the service and posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, "Granny's babies came to say goodbye."

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