They came to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Tuesday to say goodbye to 108-year-old Louise Johnson, also known as Lady, and the Matriarch of Maplewood Drive.
"Louise requested no homilies," the Rev. Bob Riegel told a crowd of several hundred during a warm but by-the-book service of traditional hymns and readings from the Bible and Book of Common Prayer.
But the prohibition - old school, like Lady - didn't stop friends, neighbors and family members from reminiscing outside Trinity about the longtime Columbia resident who lived to be one of South Carolina's oldest people.
Far more important than her span of years, they said, was the way she lived out her life on a quiet street in the Hollywood-Rose Hill neighborhood. She died Sunday of natural causes in the home where she had lived since 1954.
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"She was hard not to love," said next-door neighbor Troy McLaughlin, blinking back tears.
Right to the day she died, Lady partook of life's full feast, everyone said. Although glaucoma had made seeing difficult, and she needed a walker, her focus was on anything but herself.
"Because she was interested in others, everybody took an interest in her," said John Montgomery, 68, another neighbor and a USC School of Law professor. "People would go out of their way to talk with her. I'm not talking about older people - people in their 20s and 30s."
Lady could talk Gamecock football, ask what you thought of Gov. Mark Sanford's escapades, or, how about a party since things have been dull around here? She wanted to know about you and your family - and remembered it all.
She was an avid C-SPAN fan. (People knew not to phone her during the evening news!) She had the newspaper read to her daily. She had her hair done each Friday.
She gave advice.
How did she live so long?
"You breathe in, you breathe out," she would say. "And stay away from doctors!"
"She asked me last year if I ever used computers," recalled Margaret Rembert, 72, a member of the New Century Book Club, of which Lady was the oldest living member.
"I said, 'No, I never learned,' and she said, 'Well, you know, you're going to have to learn. I may be able to get by without knowing, but you're too young! You're going to have to learn.'"
Earlier this year, Lady was still attending New Century Book Club meetings, though she no longer produced study papers.
To neighbors, she was a beacon. They kept watch when family members weren't around, took care of her lawn, and dropped by to chat. For the last four years, they held a birthday party for her.
"I was her yard boy," said Chris Boswell, 56, who cut the grass and - along with other neighbors - made her lawn look good. "We wanted everything right for her."
In appreciation, she wrote Boswell three poems. One had the lines, "You have worked so hard in boiling sun, now it's time to have some fun. ..."
To her family, Lady was love, inspiration and everything in between.
"She never recognized that she was near the end - never. Even in the last two days, she had my mother ordering new tapes so that next week she could read a new book. Which meant she always had hope of what was coming ahead," said granddaughter Mary Wilgis, 43, of Camden.
"When you think about people who are depressed, they have no hope. Well, she was 108, had been in the hospital, and was ordering new books! She had hope, and her mind was her greatest gift."
Born in 1901, she married Julian Johnson, who became an assistant S.C. attorney general. He died in 1974.
They had five children, seven grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
In September, Lady's first great-great grandchild, Poppy Louise Mood (who is named after Lady), was born.
Two weeks ago, Allie Mood, 25, (Lady's great-grandchild) placed her newborn daughter beside Lady.
"I said, 'Lady, what do you think about meeting Poppy?' She said, 'This is a monumental day in my life.'"