There’s something of a gathering place in the Merriman Park neighborhood. It’s not a fancy place, or even a large one. But plenty of its neighbors know it, and many have spent time there.

It’s the swing in Mary Ann Thompson’s yard, where neighbors sit to talk and admire her garden.

Thompson has lived in Merriman Park for nearly 50 years, moving into her then-brand-new house in 1958. And after all those years, you’d be hard pressed to get her to live anywhere else.

“This is one of the best neighborhoods in the world,” she says. “Everybody seems to look out for each other.”

Case in point: her neighbor, Susie Wakefield, mowed her lawn so it would look nice for the photo accompanying this article. (It did.)

Her neighbor Bee Oldfield, who’s lived across the street from her for more than 40 years, cooks meals for her twice a week.

Oldfield, whose husband Charlie built the swing, shrugs off her acts of neighborly kindness. “It’s just as easy to cook for three as it is for two,” she says. “Besides, all these years she’s taken care of my animals.”

Oldfield says neighbors stop at Thompson’s because they enjoy her company. “She knows everybody in the neighborhood,” she says. “Mary Ann is the attraction. The swing is where they sit.”

Another attraction is her garden, a beautiful collection of zinnias, daisies, lilies, balsams and plenty more flowers.

Thompson can be found in her garden every day, despite the fact that she turned 90 last month. “I have to talk to my flowers,” she says.

She also enjoys talking to the neighbors who stop by. “It helps me, because it breaks up the day,” she says. “I don’t work anymore.”

“Ha,” retorts Oldfield, like only an old friend can.

In addition to her gardening, Thompson quilts blankets twice a week with her daughter, Oldfield and others, to donate to the needy through their church.

Thompson’s reason for continuing such projects as a nonagenarian? “When I was a child, things were rough, so I liked to help others,” she says, noting that as a teenager during the Depression, she helped her widowed mom in her hair salon, their house and their garden.

As for her garden, she adds: “I do it for my own enjoyment, and for the neighbors. I have an incentive because I know somebody else is enjoying it besides myself. It just makes me feel good that people appreciate what I do.”