Jackson County

Maryalice Miner ran a children’s wonderland in Ocean Springs after raising 4 kids of her own

Maryalice Miner, and her husband, John, were honored by the city two years ago with a birthday celebration at Miner’s Doll & Toy Store in Ocean Springs.
Maryalice Miner, and her husband, John, were honored by the city two years ago with a birthday celebration at Miner’s Doll & Toy Store in Ocean Springs. SUN HERALD

She met Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House when she was a teenager and it made a big impression on her.

It was one of the stories Maryalice Miner liked to tell customers at her Miner’s Big Stuff Doll & Toy Store, at the entrance to downtown Ocean Springs for decades.

Maryalice was with her parents at a While House ceremony, and being young, was prepared to snicker because the first lady was homely, but she paused when she told the story because what happened was not a childish snicker. She was totally captivated by Eleanor, when the first lady looked deep into her eyes.

Maryalice later married John Miner, who was at the White House that day too, and together they ran one of the most consistently successful small businesses in the city.

Maryalice Miner died Thursday morning. She was 92.

As they grew up, her husband became a naval architect on the team that developed unmanned vertical-launch missiles. She developed her own style of swim lessons and early-childhood development classes.

They were lauded in 2015 for 60 years of service on the Coast with the Chamber of Commerce community events, for building the Aquatic Club in Pascagoula in 1964 that later moved to Ocean Springs, for the work they did in organizing the Gulf Coast YMCA and especially for efforts in swimming and water safety, which was her specialty.

John Miner died in February at the age of 91.

The Miners are most-known for the toy store they started when they were in their 60s. They ran it for almost 30 years.

When they turned 90 together in 2015, the city threw a birthday party for them.

At the time, Maryalice told the Sun Herald, “I’m half excited and half embarrassed,” but she had her dress picked out, one that was dynamite blue. She knew how to have fun at a party.

About her work, Maryalice Miner said, toys are a way to interact with people, to develop relationships. They are key to a child’s learning process.

Just two years ago, Maryalice was working six days a week, attending morning Chamber gatherings and other events at night.

She inspired other downtown business owners.

Paige Riley, with Hillyer House, told the Sun Herald, “Some mornings I come in to open, wondering how I’m going to make it, and I look across and see her at the front of her shop sweeping, in her blue linen suit with her lipstick on. It gets me going.”

Maryalice Miner had known her husband since the 7th grade, and as a couple, they were almost inseparable.

Her daughter, Merileigh Miner Furr, said, “It was the most beautiful love story. They were holding hands (when he died), even with her stroke. Up until the end he was the ultimate gentleman, professing his love and that he would see her later.”

Her son Steve Miner said his mother passed away in her sleep, with no pain. She had had a stroke, but was gracious, even being paralyzed for more than a year.

“We’ll all miss her joy and her enthusiasm,” he said. “She lived a great life and touched a lot of people’s lives.”

“She had a good time raising three boys and a daughter — all taller than her — but she kept us all in line.”

Furr said her mother died peacefully in the morning hours and when asked yesterday if she had a happy heart, she nodded yes.