Editorial | Campus component

Editorial | Campus component

There's a certain symmetry to the Campus Florist shop on Green Street closing in October after 77 years in business. Owner Anne Johnston and her late husband, Seely, were close friends of an Illini legend who wore No. 77.

Get this: Anne Johnston's Campus Florist shop, smack in the middle of the University of Illinois Campustown, has been around for more than half the time the university has been in existence.

The university was 74 years old when she opened her shop 77 years ago.

But Johnston's extended run in Campustown — first on Wright Street and soon thereafter moving to the 600 block of East Green Street — is about to end.

Her shop stands in the way of progress and a planned 17-story multiuse building. That's symbolic of the changes Johnston has seen since 1941, both on Green Street and at the university.

When she started the business, the nation had just entered World War II and a lot of her customers left the university, bound for the service. After that came campus unrest including riots on Green Street, the evolution of Green Street from a place with clothiers, sporting good shops, lunch counters and five-and dimes to mostly restaurants and bars, and now multi-story high-rise apartment buildings.

She also survived, in 1997, a robbery and beating in her shop that left her in a coma with head injuries and broken bones.

"I wanted to make it to the 80th birthday (of the store) but that wasn't the case," Johnston said last week. Sadly, she won't. But she made it to 77, which is almost as good, given that Johnston and her late husband, Seely, were close friends of the greatest No. 77 in football history, Harold "Red" Grange.

Congratulations, Anne Johnston, on a long, Grange-like run.

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