John Stokes, Jr. Obituary

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photograph of John Stokes, Jr.John S. Stokes Jr.
October 21, 1920 - November 14, 2007
Founder and guiding spirit of this website

John Stogdell Stokes Jr., an engineer and founder of an international Catholic movement that fosters devotional flower gardens to the Virgin Mary, died Nov. 14, 2007, of congestive heart failure and pneumonia at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia. He was 87.

Mr. Stokes was born Oct. 21, 1920, in Huntingdon Valley, PA. Raised as a Quaker, Mr. Stokes in 1946 experienced what he called a “lightning bolt Catholic conversion” in the garden of his family home. His longtime interest in mysticism found a home in Catholic spirituality and social teaching.

Soon afterward, Mr. Stokes read an article about a devotional garden to Our Lady, planted in 1932 at St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole, Mass.

He developed a passionate interest in studying medieval religious names, symbolisms and uses of flowers – especially those associated with the Virgin Mary – and incorporating them into present-day religion and gardening. With a Philadelphia partner, Edward A.G. McTague, Mr. Stokes in 1951 founded “Mary’s Gardens,” an effort later joined by Bonnie Roberson of Hagerman, Idaho.

Through articles in Catholic publications, newsletters and distribution of seed packets, Mr. Stokes promoted the idea of gardens filled with plants specifically named in honor of the Virgin Mary, such as marigolds and the Madonna lily. He launched this www.mgardens.org website in late 1995 and devoted the rest of his years adding his vast archives of flower photos, scholarly research and correspondence. This site has generated many thousands of inquiries and fostered devotional gardens worldwide.

Mary’s Gardens can be found at the Knock Shrine in Ireland, the Church of Our Lady of Akita, Akita, Japan, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

A funeral liturgy for Mr. Stokes was held Nov. 20 at St. Patrick's Church in Philadelphia. Interment was at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.

Mr. Stokes’ Mary's Gardens archives will be donated to the Marian Library at the University of Dayton. Memorial contributions may be made to the library, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469-1390, Attn: Claire Jones.

Message from John Stokes' children:

It is anticipated that the maintenance of this website will be passed on to the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, perhaps by the spring of 2008. A notice will appear at this website when this happens. In the meantime, all chat sessions have been suspended; emails will be answered to the best of our ability.

For one year, the Philadelphia Inquirer is maintaining a guestbook for condolences and thoughts at guestbook.


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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