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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
107 Years ~ Aunt Mary Martha Barber Barrett
107 Years don’t cloud bright blue eyes.
I went with Grandpa to see his Aunt Mary, not too long before this newspaper article (below) was published in the 80's.
They had a large bash in celebration of Aunt Mary’s birthday and she decided to take a ride with her nephew instead. They went to the mountains to see the leaves changing colors. When you get a certain age you can pretty much do as you please. The party went on without her.
She heard that coffee was bad for you, so at age 98, she gave it up. She was a beautiful soul. She watched you carefully and a smile came easily to her face.
She seemed content and happy. She wanted me to sit close to her, so she could see me better.
She was a very nimble lady when I last saw her. She sat on the ground beneath a tree and when we decided to go back to the house, my grandparents required help to stand, but not her. She got right up by herself, patiently waiting for her nephew, years her junior.
She had the most remarkable sparkling blue eyes. They were an amazing color of blue.
The following article was published in the York Observer in 1985. York, South Carolina.
105 Years of Memories Don't
Cloud Bright Eyes
Bethel--She's 105 now and her world is a smaller place, but Mary Barrett's
eyes still sparkle and her farmer hands look strong.
"So many people come by, but not often enough for me to know them...."
she says slowly after puzzling over a new face. She doesn't say much more: talking has been difficult since a stroke five years ago. But as others talk her eyes are lively, bouncing back and forth like a spectator's at a tennis match. They smile sometimes even when her face doesn't.
These days Miss Mary stays at home. She's one of those York County people you'd like to meet but probably won't see on the street or at church. Mostly she sits in her wicker-back, oak rocker, watching TV or looking out the window across the pasture. "She'll say, "There goes a little white one and there goes a little red one," says Naomi Baird, marveling that her mother can spot cars on the highway several yards away.
Miss Mary has lived with the Bairds, Naomi and her husband, Bill, since 1961, when she sold her 83 acre farm off Faulkner Road west of Clover. Around the house are a lifetime worth of memories. She sleeps on the oak bed and eats from the oak table that she started her household with in 1903. Beside a window is the treadle sewing machine that turned out many wardrobes.
Sewing and gardening were her hobbies when she was still active, up until she broke her hip a couple of years ago. She did heavy yard work into her 80s, and later - even after the stroke - grew flowers, vegetables and fruits.
She married William Monroe Barrett in 1903 and settled in Clover. He was an overseer at Clover Spinning Mill until 1923 when he moved to Hawthorne Mill on South Main Street. He died three years later of leukemia at age 42.
In 1930, Mary Barrett took her seven children and moved to the Faulkner Road farm, where she built a two-story, eight-room brick house for $3,500. It was a busy place. In addition to the eight Barretts, she took in her parents as well as a niece (Lillian Barber) and a grand daughter.
They grew corn and cotton, and her mother's hard work is the thing Naomi Baird remembers most about that time.
"She was such a strong person," Baird says. "She always worked with us. She didn't just send us out to work; she went out in the fields with us. As the kids began growing up and moving away, Miss Mary did less and less farming, finally renting the field to other farmers.
She lived on the farm until 1961, the year after her son Fred died. A lifelong bachelor, he had lived with her since graduating from the Citadel. After his death, she had the house to herself.
Six of the nine others she raised are still living - niece Lillian Adams and grand daughter Jane Burrell in Clover, daughter Naomi in Bethel, and three sons, Cecil and James in Gastonia and Archie in Rock Hill. Cecil is oldest at 81 and Archie youngest at 64.
The family didn't stop there, of course. There are 17 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren.
The clan got together at Archie Barrett's house for the matriarch's 100th birthday in 1980. That Sunday dinner in the yard was the last big get-together. The stroke came soon after, and crowds make Miss Mary nervous now.
These days she sits in the room the Bairds added on when she moved in - wood floor, an unused fireplace, light blue walls with white trim, lots of windows with ruffly white curtains.
She watches TV some. Favorites include Horse racing and nature shows."She likes shows with a lot of movement," says Naomi Baird. "No soap operas....
"She kept up with things until she was about 100," Bair says. "She never missed the TV news or her Newsweek magazine." Favorite journalists: former NBC team Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
Keeping up with a lifetime of history gets tough when the lifetime is a century. For Miss Mary, that's 21 American Presidents.
What's kept her going all these years? Well, she worked hard, she never smoked or drank alcohol, and she read the Bible a lot. She was never sick until her stroke; she didn't go to the hospital even then. Her only trip was for her broken hip. She takes no medicine except a sleeping pill, and eats three big meals a day, savoring sweet potatoes most.
"But there's something else that keeps her ticking." Baird says. Maybe it's a quick mischievous mind inside the slowed body.
"She knows a lot more than people give her credit for." Says Lilly Mae Bailey, who has stayed with Miss Mary during the day for the past 2 1/2 years.
"She told me the other day, "Let's slip off and go for a walk.' And I said, 'No, we can't do that.' And she said, 'Yeah, I used to do that all the time.."'
Her visitor rises to leave, and the blue eyes dart. At that moment her age is amazing; she could pass for a generation younger. Gray hair frames a
small face, wrinkled but soft and lively. Two braids of gray hair fall across the shoulders of her pink robe and down behind her.
She reaches out to touch.
"Goodbye. Good to see you," she says. "I can't talk much. Goodbye.
Hope you'll be back."
September 01, 1880 ~ February 17, 1987
She was the daughter of William M. Barber and Margaret Ann McCarter. The grand daughter of William George Barber. She was the sister of Nancy "Nannie" Ann Barber.
Imagine the all the changes and all the life those blue eyes saw.
Mary Barber Barrett is buried alongside her family at Woodside Cemetery in Clover, South Carolina.