John Miner, 91, professed his love for his wife, Maryalice, right up until the time he died on Saturday.
He asked for Maryalice — his love since the seventh grade — and his daughter wheeled her up to his bed so they could talk.
He had difficulty talking and walking the last few days of his life, his daughter, Merileigh Miner Furr said. “But he called for my mom. They had the most beautiful conversation.
“He was struggling with everything, but he had to tell her goodbye,” Furr said. “She said, ‘I love you. I’ve always loved you.’ ”
Furr said. “It was the most beautiful love story. They were holding hands. Even with her stroke. Up until the end he was the ultimate gentleman, professing his love and that he would see her later.”
When John and Maryalice turned 90 together, almost two years ago, the city threw a birthday party for them, and Sun Herald readers learned that Miner was more than a prominent businessman honored many times for his community work.
When he was a teenager, he met Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House (so did Maryalice). He became a naval architect on the team that developed unmanned vertical-launch missiles, and she developed her own style of swim lessons and early-childhood development classes on the Coast.
He was considered a fixture of the community.
The Miners are most-known for the toy store they have had near the entrance to downtown Ocean Springs for almost 30 years. If you do the math, you realize they didn’t open the hugely successful store until they were in their 60s.
“John Miner was just a wonderful human being and wonderful father who raised his children to be creative individuals and successful,” said longtime city Alderman Greg Denyer. “It’s hard to talk about him without including his wife, they were inseparable. They had a great product with the toy store. I don’t think they were trying to get rich.
“He was just a good example of a businessman,” Denyer said. “He was a patriarch, and he would visit other shops downtown, very kind, a lot of help. You hate to lose the old guys who made a difference and helped start what we have today downtown. We certainly lost one with Mr. Miner. He’s going to be sadly missed.”
His alderman of 24 years Matt McDonnell called Miner “a very generous man, who helped a lot of people who couldn’t afford to get a toy for a friend or a sibling. He also cared a lot about his community and believed in doing things right.”
Part of the charm of the Miner’s Big Stuff Doll & Toy Store through the years has been the life tales John and his wife told their customers well into their later years.
He, an Eagle Scout, did Christmas-tree lighting duty for the Roosevelts — that’s how he met them at the White House. He was a Duncan yo-yo champion in junior high.
In September 2015, Miner and his wife received the John R. Blossman Humanitarian Award from the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA for 60 years of service on the Coast with the Chamber of Commerce and community events.
They were lauded for all the work they’ve done, including building the Aquatic Club in Pascagoula in 1964 which later moved to Ocean Springs. They became instrumental in the organization of the Gulf Coast YMCA, especially its efforts in swimming and water safety.
Hundreds packed the Grand Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino for the award ceremony.
John Miner called it “a fantastic honor. We are so tickled that so many people turned out to help us celebrate. We have people from as far away as Oregon here.”
He was just pleased the banquet also helped benefit the YMCA.
Furr said the award was a tribute to the life her parents lived together.
“My brothers and I are so proud of our parents,” she said that night. “They have lived a beautiful life and they have changed lives along the way.”
Margaret Miller, executive director of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce at the time, said John Miner was his wife “are just a delight and a fantastic example to young people of what a great marriage looks like.”
Services for John Miner
Thursday at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ocean Springs.
Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The funeral will be from 11 a.m. until noon, with a reception at the church immediately following.