Obituary: Mary Nicholas Freeland

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Former Malibu resident and owner of Malibu Toys ‘n Sports Mary Nicholas Freeland passed away on June 11 at the age of 97.

Former Malibu resident and owner of Malibu Toys ‘n Sports Mary Nicholas Freeland passed away on June 11 at the age of 97. She lived in Springville, Calif., with her oldest son, Daniel Freeland.

Mary was born in New Jersey on Feb. 15, 1917, to Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Hughena Nicholas. She spent most of her childhood however in Ashland, Ky. When she was a young adult, she moved to Southern California and was a real-life “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II, building airplanes for the war effort. It was there that she met and married her husband, John Rice Freeland. After the war, John began working as a pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration and eventually moved his family to the Alaska Territory, during its push for statehood.

After living in Alaska, the family moved back to Southern California, settling back in the Santa Monica area, where Mary’s sons attended Venice High School. Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit led her and her husband to the beaches of Malibu where they created an iconic store, right on Pacific Coast Highway. Malibu Toys ‘n Sports was born in the early ‘60s during the burgeoning time of surfing, skateboarding and The Beach Boys.

Long after the passing of John in 1964, their sons, along with their wives, and later, their grandchildren, could be found helping customers, wrapping gifts and dusting shelves. As Malibu became a playground for celebrities, Mary not only served many celebrities in her toy store, but she also befriended them. Ronald Reagan, Johnny Carson, Barbra Streisand and Sonny and Cher called on Mary for everything from birthday gifts to beach toys. Mary closed the store in the late ’80s and moved to Springville to be near family.

An avid animal lover, Mary took care of several animals at her home in Springville making sure no animal in the area ever went hungry. 

“Mary was a dignified, independent, loving and caring woman who will be missed by many,” a loved one said.

Her husband John, sisters Ruth and Phyllis, and her son, David, preceded her in death. She is survived by her oldest son, Daniel Freeland, seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and family and friends.