Cancer Aid-Thrift Shop founder dies at age 94 |

Cancer Aid-Thrift Shop founder dies at age 94

When Vivian Huson’s uncle died from cancer, she just had to do something.

“It just sparked something in her to start the thrift shop to benefit cancer patients,” said her daughter, Laurie Urbach of Napa.

Huson, 94, died March 9 in Napa, but lived most of her life in Grass Valley and will best be remembered for starting the Thrift Shop-Cancer Aid store at 317 South Auburn Street.

The still-existing charity shop is also referred to by many in reverse as the Cancer Aid-Thrift Shop. From 1971 to 1998, she turned the once-condemned building into a store that would produce $3 million in help for local cancer patients. Donations made up the store’s inventory and Huson staffed it with community volunteers.

“She kept things businesslike,” said Twyla LeMargie, who took the store over in 1998 when Huson went to live with her daughter in Napa. “She was good with the patients and had a heart of gold. She started it on a shoestring.”

Huson and her husband, Walter Huson, purchased the condemned former grocery store in 1970. It would weather a red tape storm from the state before opening in 1971.

“Little by little she started recruiting people as volunteers,” Urbach said. “She won so many awards it was unbelievable.”

Those awards included Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce Earl Covey Award, a state Soroptimist Award of Women of Distinction, and a place in the 1998 edition of “Who’s Who of America.”

“She was very dedicated,” said Marilyn Lightner, who has worked at the Grass Valley store since 1994. “She was very patient, very loving and very kind to the cancer patients.”

When she came down with severe macular degeneration, it robbed her of the eyesight she needed to run the store, so she retired to Napa. While there, she still volunteered for a clothing store for the underprivileged.

Urbach said her mother taught her dog “Dolly,” to do 40 different tricks and liked to delight friends with the animal’s performance. She also took macrophotographs of insects and won awards at the Nevada County Fair with them.

“She was an artist, crocheted, painted, she was just very talented,” Urbach said.

Huson moved to Grass Valley from Oklahoma as a child, and graduated from high school in 1930. She married her sweetheart, Walter, in 1931, who died after 61 years of marriage.

Survivors other than Urbach and her husband, Barry Urbach, include sons David Huson and his wife, Marilyn, of Longmont, Colo., Brian Huson and his wife, Debbie, of Scappoose, Ore., nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Private services were held in Napa and burial plans are pending.

To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4237.

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