The grandchildren of downtown Gainesville honored their late, non-biological grandmother Friday afternoon with a second vigil.
More than 100 Gainesville residents gathered on Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville to laugh and smile while sharing stories of a homeless woman who was known as a family member to the community.
“Everyone here calls me Granny.”
Jacob Larson said these were the first words Rose ‘Granny’ McDonald-Loston spoke to him. He said he was sure she said the same to almost everybody who met her.
The 44-year-old community pastor at the Gainesville Vineyard church said she would watch what she would call her "grandkids" downtown walking by while holding an umbrella and waiting for the rain.
“Sometimes she’d show off a pretty sundress or a coat,” he said. “She’d come in beaming with that contagious smile and do a twirl. She might’ve been fishing for a compliment but you couldn’t help but give it to her.”
Granny died at 64 years old in a hit-and-run crash on Waldo Road on Jan. 20. She was one of four people recently killed in a pedestrian or bicyclist-related accident in Alachua County this year.
Her Christian service was a reflection of her faith, as many speakers said in their eulogies. She was buried at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, located at 7204 County Road 234, after the service.
Residents tied written notes onto her coffin lid that said, “To the great kind soul” or “Granny you live forever.”
The service was organized by Grace Marketplace, a homeless shelter in northeast Gainesville, and the Gainesville Vineyard, said Jon DeCarmine, the executive director of Grace Marketplace. The city approved the service on Bo Diddley Plaza on short notice.
DeCarmine said he has known Granny longer than he has known his kids and wife. He described her as the essence of a wonderful human being.
“She was the first person I met who really drove home this idea that people who don’t have a home aren’t people who have something wrong with them but are people who had something happen to them,” he said.
Katie Hyson, a 28-year-old Gainesville resident, spoke on the stage of the plaza in tears. She said one of the best things about Granny was that she always found a way to give to others even when she had nothing.
“Her problems seemed a lot bigger than mine, but she never made me feel that way,” she said.
Following the speeches, Gainesville residents Virginia Carr, 29, and Eli Tragash, 30, performed two songs in her memory. The first was “Amazing Grace” and the second was “I’ll Fly Away” because she wouldn’t want everybody moping around at her service, Carr said.
She made her own identity, said Michael Raburn, a 49-year-old lead pastor at the Gainesville Vineyard.
“Lord help you if you call her Rose, she chose to be Granny,” he said.
Contact Stephany Matat at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @StephanyMatat.
Residents pictured are gathered around the lid of the coffin of Rose ‘Granny’ McDonald-Loston. They wrote notes to her and tied them onto the lid. She was buried after the service at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, located at 7204 County Road 234.