'Ladybug Says' writer Mary Blue dies at 87

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Her weekly gardening column ran for 35 years before she retired in 1996.

By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian

Over the years, Mary Blue surrounded herself, her family and her friends with beautiful things from the garden and tasty dishes from the kitchen.

Blue, a former gardening columnist and food editor for the Southeast Missourian, died Sunday. She was 87.

Blue wrote a weekly gardening column, "Ladybug Says," for 35 years before retiring in 1996. She also worked as the food editor at the Southeast Missourian for 20 years, retiring from that position in 1980.

Her husband, the late John Blue, was editor of the newspaper from 1961 to 1980.

"People would remember her for her love of life and love of flowers and food," said her daughter, Bunny Waddell of Powders Springs, Ga.

Nancy Bray, whose parents were longtime friends of the Blues, said everyone looked forward to the summer when they'd get a garden care package from the Blues.

Sometimes Mary Blue would call and tell them to come for dinner, where she'd prepared dishes of vegetables, Bray said. "She was such a wonderful cook."

Waddell said her mother loved entertaining. She recently discovered a diary her mother kept dating back decades and containing lists of party menus and invited guests.

But more than cooking, Blue was interested in gardening. She grew up in Southern Illinois, where her family always had a garden and several relatives were orchardists. She was just as interested in the history of flowers as she was in growing them, Waddell said.

The Blues had a greenhouse. "They would keep wonderful things all winter like ferns and poinsettias and Christmas cactus that an ordinary person could not do," said Charlotte Sargent, a longtime friend. "She had a really green thumb."

Even as late as a week ago, Sargent was getting gardening advice from Blue.

For years, Blue was a test gardener for Jackson Perkins and other seed companies. "With good friends, Nada Nagel and her daughter, Janet, the seeds would be planted and I would report the results of growing them here in the hot, dry summers of the Midwest," Blue wrote in her last column.

Blue began working at the Southeast Missourian as a part-time proofreader in 1941. She continued in that post until World War II started. Eventually she began working part time in the newsroom, filling in for people who were away. She often wrote about gardening news and tidbits during that time, and those items eventually became part of "Ladybug Says."

"I don't know how she got everything done that she did," Bray said. "She was always doing something for somebody and making her deadlines. She would write notes and cards and remember the special occasions in your life. I've saved many a note from Mary Blue because they made you feel good and feel special."

Blue is survived by her daughter and two grandsons.

Visitation is from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Ford and Sons Mount Auburn Chapel. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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