MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Living a long and fulfilling life — it’s what many of us want.

Two weeks ago, a Richfield woman who lived to be 104 years old passed away.

“She was a real feisty lady. That’s why she lived so long,” former coworker Gloria Derrick said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Gracie Jones was a longtime employee at Bachman’s Floral in south Minneapolis. She was known for her welcoming smile, but the circumstances that launched her career are far from joyous.

“She loved working here. She loved all the pretty things. Grace was always smiling. Always,” Derrick said.

Gracie actually trained her as a sales consultant 33 years ago. She continued to work until she was in her early 80s.

“She had a very good outlook on life,” Derrick said. “She said each day was a gift. And she used to say that a lot.”

For most of her life, Gracie was an active woman, swimming nearly every day until she was almost 90.

“She had a pool in her backyard and every day in the summer she would swim. So that was her exercise,” Derrick said.

Gracie lived in her Richfield home until she was 103. She spent time working in her garden, no doubt reflecting on the days when her husband and three kids still lived here with her.

Her husband Donald was a pilot for Northwest Airlines.

Gracie's husband, Donald (credit: CBS)

Gracie’s husband, Donald (credit: CBS)

“It was in 1950, and the whole family was getting ready to go to Florida for Christmas,” Derrick said. “A pilot got sick and couldn’t fly a plane, so her husband said he would fly for this fellow and then he’d be right back. It was just an overnight flight.”

There was a blizzard that night. The plane Donald Jones was flying, crashed into a house in South Minneapolis. All 13 people on board were killed, as well as two children inside the home.

A photo of the plane crash wreckage (credit: CBS)

A photo of the plane crash wreckage (credit: CBS)

“So she raised her children all alone,” Derrick said.

Gracie went from being a stay-at-home mom to a working, single parent. Monica Lewis became friends with Gracie at Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

“She talked about Don, her husband, like he was always there by her side, like the whole time,” Lewis said.

They sang in the choir together.

“She knew what she had to do. She had these kids and now she had to be the only parent and she really stepped up to that,” Lewis said.

There, she found the strength to recapture her joy. Gracie was also known for her knitting, needle point and sewing skills.

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