Jon E. Stephens is an institution within an institution. 

For more than 50 years, the Towson woman has worked as a floral designer for Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses, a fourth-generation family business, which has been serving Towson and the Baltimore metro area since 1924.

Just don't ask her how old of an institution she is.

One of her five children — the oldest is 60 now — looked at her closely the other day and said, "Mother, you don't have any wrinkles."

"I told her I didn't have time to get any wrinkles," Stephens said.

She's a self-described, Baltimore-bred "nice Catholic girl," who for 60 years has lived in the same house in the Greenbrier section of Towson, in which she raised her children.

It's within walking distance of Radebaugh's, which is a good thing since she didn't get her driver's license until she was in her 60s.

Her husband left her when their youngest was 5 months old. While at the grocery store she'd say the rosary, praying the $20 bill she held was enough to pay for the order. It's a good thing her mother taught her to pinch pennies, she said.

The fifth of five girls, she was named Jon Edmonds when she was born in Mercy Hospital more years ago than she'd like to admit.

"I guess they wanted a boy," she said. 

The nuns wouldn't allow her the name Jon because it wasn't  the name of a saint, so they recorded her name as Joan. But she's pretty sure it's Jon on her birth certificate — if it ever shows up.

According to her friends and colleagues, Stephens herself is as nice to have around as the floral arrangements she has created.

"Everybody loves her," said Radebaugh floral designer and close friend Kathy Serio, who has worked with her for 13 years.  "She'd do anything for you."

Steve Radebaugh, now the corporation treasurer, has been her boss since 1975. He was 12 when they first met. Now he's a grandfather several times over. 

He didn't know anything about the shop when he took it over after his Uncle George retired, he said.

"But I decided to give it a shot. Jon E. was part of that nucleus of very talented and loyal people who gave me on the job training," Radebaugh said.

She only works part time at Radebaugh's now. They call her in when things get really busy.

Radebaugh said when she worked full time she had a huge following.

"People would call in, and they'd all ask for Jon E. She was just a natural. She could take anything and make it look beautiful," Radebaugh said.

Pat Cahill, a chum from Stephens' college days who considers her a second sister, recalls Stephens decorating the Cahill's new home in Fox Chapel for Christmas more than 50 years ago.