2018-01-11 / Front Page

Leverett celebrates 100 years, remembers lifetime of strength

By JANE ELLYN AARON
news editor


MARY MAE FRANCIS LEVERETT MARY MAE FRANCIS LEVERETT She can remember a time that’s long passed from what Lincoln County people know today; where despite the invention of motorized vehicles, some families still used a horse and wagon, people raised their own livestock and produce, and a short ferry ride across the river would put you in South Carolina.

Born to Celia (née Jones) and An­thony Leverett on January 27, 1918, Mary Mae Francis Leverett, will soon celebrate her 100th birthday.

“I suppose I feel just like I’ve been feeling,” the Martin’.s. Cross­roads . area native remarked, with a slight chuckle. While she may sit in a wheelchair now, that’s a recent adjustment she’s had to make within the past year or so after suffering a heart attack.

“I think I’m pretty strong. If I could walk, I think I’d still be doing what I usually do. At least some of it,” she added. “I still enjoy cook­ing. I think I’d be cooking now if I could walk.”

Though a modest statement, this brief description of “strength” may be an injustice to Leverett’s character.

She reminisced on a world where long, laborious work hours and childcare were her family’s way of life. A farming people, the Leveretts raised cows, hogs, grew vegetables, and undertook a wealth of other manual work.

There were seven children, five girls and two boys, born to mother and father Leverett, and they lived happily off of Double Branches Road. Even the family rode in a horse and buggy until after World War II.

“I did something of everything – I plowed the mule, and shucked corn, and picked the cotton, bundled it, but my job was to milk the cows and take care of the younger children,” Leverett said.

The Leveretts, a self-sustaining people (as were most during this era), grew, raised, and hunted all that they needed to survive.

“Mama used to make us clothes out of chicken feed sacks or any kind of sack she had,” she explained. “We used to play with dolls. We would take corn cobs and put clothes on them, and we used to make balls with thread, and we would sew them together.”

At the Maxim School, a tiny house situated near Katie Elam Road at Maxim Road, is where Le­verett and her siblings received an education – finishing in the eighth grade. “They only offered eight grades,” Leverett said.

On occasion, the family would take a ferry across the lower part of the river and dip into South Caro­lina. “My mama had people over there,” she explained.

Eventually, the family would migrate and establish themselves on Guillebeau Road, and Leverett herself would embark on a journey to provide for her family.

After her father’s passing in the spring of 1957, Leverett went to Atlanta in search of work.

“Somebody had to work and make money. My brother had to have an operation on his hand, but he couldn’t work because of it, and I had to go because we had to have something coming in,” she explained.

“I did the messy work. I lived with the people I worked for,” Leverett chuckled, and for good reason, because Leverett devoted over 20 years of her life to raising other people’s children. No stranger to childcare, Leverett took up the position of nanny upon moving to Atlanta, and throughout the years she raised two different sets of children.

Her devotion and love were re­ciprocated, and her heart was left with the children as they grew. Until Leverett was about 96-years-old, those children would even take her on vacation with them, because she was considered their “Mama.”

Leverett’s innate strength was tried again in 1962, when she had a stroke. Doctors wanted to put her in a rest home then, but her tenacity won out, and with a fighting spirit she went home for a short stint, regained her health, and went right back about her life.

“They told me, ‘you ain’t never going to be nothing but a vegetable,’ and I come down to Lincolnton to stay a month and got better,” Lev­erett said. “Y’all said I was going to be a vegetable and not be able to do anything, but I can cook and do everything that I used to. I can walk.”

She returned to Atlanta and re­mained there until 1979.

In her 60s, and with the children charged under her grown, she de­cided it was time to return to Lincoln County.

“I thought I better go back to my people while I was able to do for myself,” Leverett said, and that’s precisely what she did.

Leverett has had a good life. It is filled with friends and family that love her, and she returns that love without batting an eye. She is a resident of the Lake Crossing Health Center in Appling, and is now antici­pating her birthday celebration.

In the span of 100 years, this woman has witnessed more changes in the world than imaginable by much of the populace – momentous occasions like the inundation of Clark’s Hill Lake and having elec­tricity hooked up for the very first time, and even the mundane every­day chores like washing clothes in the river, are all but subtle memories now.

When prompted, Leverett will laugh and tell you that she didn’t have a clue about how rapidly the world would change.

“I didn’t have no idea that nobody would be going to the moon – I’d never imagined that,” she smiled, but clearly those leaps for humanity are nothing compared to enjoying life’s simplicity – which may very well be the secret to a long, happy life.

Even Leverett remarked that “cooking and having company” have been the parts of life she’s loved the most.

Though bygone now, and she ad­mitted that she would never return to the past, Leverett looks back fondly on a time filled with family values, and helping your fellow man.

“I think people knew one another way back when, and they tried to help each other,” she smiled.

Of course, Leverett has never diverted from that core.

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