By Michael Abeyta
DENVER (CBS4) – Diane Cox is glad to be home, and she, more than anyone, deserves to take a load off.
“This my chair. That’s my love seat,” Diane said as she sat down in her recliner.
Diane hasn’t just had a long hard day, her entire life has been challenging. It’s a story she has been waiting to tell.
“I want you all to know what these people have done for mama. What mama has done for Denver. This is my story,” she said.
Diane was born in New York, but she knew she was home when she came out to Denver to see her mother.
“I came here Sept. 29 at Stapleton. I thought it was the littlest airport,” she said. “I fell in love with Colorado when I got off that airplane. It was just so beautiful. The 16th Street Mall was so clean you could cook an egg and eat it off the ground. I love Colorado so much.”
She got a job and made a life here with her two daughters. Then, one day, chance gave her an opportunity to give back to the state she loves.
“I was walking across the street and they were throwing out these beautiful flowers, and I said ‘Why you all throwing them in the garbage? People need to smell them like my grandmother said.’ She said, ‘Smell your flowers while you are alive because once you are dead everybody’s sending flowers. You can’t get out the coffin to say thank you.’”
She took the flowers and gave them away to Denver’s homeless. She felt like she was doing “God’s work,” and she wanted to do it again.
She called Safeway and got them to donate flowers to her so she could give them away to nursing homes and homeless shelters at first, but then other places too.
Diane listed them off:
“That’s mama, in Hickenlooper’s office. He’s a friend of mine.”
“This is me and the police.”
“That’s me and Mitch Morrissey.”
“This is at Channel 4.”
“I got to be the flower lady out here giving people flowers to smell,” she said as she smiled. “Mama done a lot.”
She even brought flowers to the funeral of slain Denver Police officer Donnie Young in 2005, but then in 2012, she had tragedy of her own. Her mother died.
“My mom. She was my best friend. She was always there for me I was always there for her,” Diane said as she choked back tears. “I didn’t know a human being could hurt so bad.”
Diane’s mother was sick, so Diane moved into her house to take care of her. After her mother’s death, she had nowhere to go, so she was out on the streets.
“I’ve been homeless a long time now,” Diane said.
Now the city that Diane has given so much to is giving back.
The St. Francis Center and St. John’s Cathedral raised money and donated land to build fully furnished apartments for 50 homeless people to live in so they can get back on their feet.
Diane is one of those residents and having safety and security has given her life back.
She walks over to a cup full of fresh cut flowers in her new kitchen. She grabs one and extends it out toward a volunteer with St. John’s Cathedral.
“Pretty lady… pretty lady… I want you to have this,” she said.
Six years later, the flower lady is back and very grateful to God for the people who gave her a place to start over.
“God I’m so happy. God thank you. Thank you for this place,” as she dropped to her knees and kissed the floor.
Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.