Looking back across the years, Mary McConnell saw herself as ordinary, a shy girl who grew up, got married and lived a long and happy life. Just last year she made it to 100 years-old.
Sadly, she passed away Saturday.
She was known around Seven Mile Road and Awendaw simply as “Miss Mary.”
Miss Mary’s milestone birthday, Nov. 3, 2016 was celebrated with family and friends from across the community. And then there was the dancing, an activity that her late husband A. B. McConnell had never liked. But on that evening, Miss Mary showed that she still has some moves when an old friend took the lead on the dance floor.
Mary and her husband married in 1935, and starting four years later, they built and ran the A.B. McConnell community store on Highway 17 North (and several other roadside shops and gas stations) along the two-lane road connecting the Cooper River and Georgetown.
Black or white; very poor or very rich, folks would do business there. Their little country store was the center of a rural universe for several generations of South Carolinians living in or passing through that stretch of Lowcountry. McConnell’s Store was the best and closest source of food and fuel, information, gossip and community news.
The local magistrate would hold court out front and even millionaire industrialists like the Guggenheims and the Baruchs, who owned hunting preserves, also would come by – or send someone to shop for them. Famed World War II aviator, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle once shopped there while on a hunting trip.
The McConnells lived and worked together at their store until A.B.’s death in 1967, and she then kept the store going until age and the competition from big stores in nearby Mount Pleasant finally took their toll on her business. But Miss Mary kept it going, sometimes open just a few hours a day and selling drinks and snacks until last year. That translates to 75 years at the store, “retiring” at the young age of 99.
Her Funeral Service will be held graveside Friday, Jan. 20 in the Christ Church Cemetery, at 2 p.m. The family will receive friends Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. in J. HENRY STUHR, INC. MOUNT PLEASANT CHAPEL, 1494 Mathis Ferry Rd.
Mary was born November 3, 1915 at The Bridge on Awendaw Creek to the late Bonny Gerald Thames and the late Julia White Thames. At age fifteen, she watched Babe Ruth play baseball in New York. She graduated from McClellanville High School.
In 1939 Miss Mary and her late husband, Aaron Blakely "Blake" McConnell, built A.B. McConnell General Merchandise, a mercantile near Mount Pleasant, in the sweetgrass-making community of Seven Mile. For decades the store was the local place to purchase hardware, animal feed and groceries. Many neighbors had their first job clerking at the store. After her husband's death in 1967, Mary ran the store until the age of 98.
Many tourists and visitors from all over the world have been enchanted by her store which reminded them of old times. The store eventually became Mary's living room complete with her La-Z-Boy behind the old Coca-Cola case which still runs. Many friends stopped by when the "Open" sign was on. Mary's beautiful flowers, hot pepper plants, petunias, and African violets decorated the store inside and out. Petunia plants even grew in the asphalt and bloomed.
Mary crocheted daily, cut up and fried freshly caught fish, caught crab in the creek, cleaned her own shrimp and crabs, and always had many stories to tell. She loved all her doctors, neighbors, family and business acquaintances. She is survived by her three children, Mary Jo McConnell Whitton, Bonny Scott McConnell, and Julia McConnell Snyder; her seven grandchildren; and ten great-grandchildren.