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Woman has helped kids, gardens reach their full potential
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Frances Miller Haynes, 95, points out a variety of flowers in her garden. Haynes moved to Gainesville in 1940 as a newlywed, and soon became involved in the Azalea Garden Club and joined First Baptist Church. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Frances Miller Haynes talks about the last few hours she spent with her second husband, Joe Haynes.

Throughout Frances Miller Haynes' life, she's helped usher young lives into full bloom - whether it's in the garden or the classroom.

Now 95, she's still called "Mrs. Miller" by many of her former students from the years she taught and served as principal at Candler Street School in Gainesville. She's also logged close to 70 years as a member of the Azalea Garden Club and just this year started a vegetable garden with tomatoes so tall they could serve as a hedge.

"Ever since I was a child I loved to garden," she said, explaining how she began by planting sweet peas in her daddy's garden.

She married John C. Miller in 1939, and the couple moved to Gainesville the next year. Miller was a civil engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, and when he was called to serve in World War II, Haynes said she was called to teach.

"I was there 20 years - I taught sixth grade for 12 years and then I was principal for eight years," Haynes said of Candler Street School, which is now an office building. She taught for a year at Main Street School before being transferred there, and after she served as principal at Candler, went on to serve as assistant superintendant of Hall County schools.

She started her tenure as principal at Candler Street in 1954. She said she knew every child who walked through the doors - which made it easier when an ice storm struck one year and the kids had to be sent home.

"Jackie Short called me and said, ‘Mrs. Miller, what are you going to do about these kids?' And I said, ‘We're gonna bring 'em home before it gets any worse,'" she recalled. "He had a - I think it was a chicken truck they haul people that are working - and he said you get them ready, and I had them all lined up by streets, and he took every one of those children home."

It also meant that she knew more than just the children's names and what street they lived on.

"One child, her dog followed her to school," she said. "We didn't have school buses; it was a community school ... And this child's dog followed her to school every day.

"I said, ‘You must keep your dog at home.' The dog's name was Maybelline, and I called over the loudspeaker, Ruthie, come get Maybelline, you have to take her home," she continued. "And everybody's teasing me and they said Frances Miller doesn't just know the children and their family, she knows all the dogs, too."

Haynes joined the Azalea Garden Club not long after she moved to Gainesville as a newlywed, invited by her husband's cousin. The club itself had formed just a few years prior.

Today, the club has 22 members, with many having served more than 25 years.

Her yard is a collection of sun-loving wildflowers, hydrangeas and bushy magnolias. There's a potted orange tree off a side patio that's just starting to fruit, and a scupperdine vine alongside the new vegetable garden.

Today, she's made her home with her "new" family; after her first husband died, eight years passed before she began dating Joe Haynes. They both liked to play bridge, and eventually spent more and more time together.

"I'd laugh and say we courted for eight years before we got married, and people would say, ‘Why don't you go ahead and get married?' And I'd say, ‘We're not old enough.'"

She said she's fortunate to have married into such a loving family, and she lives in a spacious apartment built by Joe and his son, Harrison. Even after Joe's sudden death a few years ago following a fall, Haynes is still a part of the family.

"Everyone says, boy you're getting a bonus when you married Joe Haynes - his children," she said, adding that she also gets to play with five great-grandchildren, too. "I never had any children ... These great-grandchildren, boy, I just love them to death. I call them my babies."

The children she saw grow up from the halls of Candler Street School were her kids, she said, and she and the teachers she worked with were the "daytime mothers."

"It ought to be like that because the teacher is directly with that child longer than the mother; the teacher's right there over that child," she said. "Some of my children even today, they see me and run up to me and kiss me and say there's Mrs. Miller. And it thrills me to death, of course."

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