What if I were to tell you that one of Athens Rehab and Senior Care’s newest residents is a prolific quilter at 90 years young? Meet Ola Mae Barnes, who was born on July 5, 1925, moved in to the facility in 2014, has been there about a year, and “loves it.” She was born at home in Limestone County, helped support her parents’ farm, and has a work ethic that is nearly non-existent today. She says, “We planted, and picked, and you pulled a big old sack behind you, not like today.” She added, “We worked during the daytime, and canned, (or, as the phrase goes, ‘put up’) vegetables during the night.”
She told a funny story about the fact that she has never made a Thanksgiving turkey and “can’t stand chicken.” The reason is, beginning at the age of 7, one of her least favorite jobs was to kill and process at least 7 chickens for Sunday dinner each week. The chickens were nearly as big as she was, and let’s just say, that to Ola Mae, “anything fowl was truly foul!” Only ham was served at holidays.
As far as quilting and sewing in the old days is concerned, absolutely nothing was done on a machine. Their clothes were stitched by hand, same as the quilts, and the battings were made from the leftovers from the local cotton gin. They were mounted on a frame, and then stitched into the quilt so there were no lumps. While I was there, she was working on her newest one, a queen sized quilt commissioned by one of the employees at Athens Rehab and Senior Care. She is going to start a quilting group there at the facility.
Ola Mae married at 22, gave birth to 12 children, and lost one son. In my stint in doing articles for Athens Rehab, (which, by the way is one of my favorite gigs,) I have never met anyone that was the matriarch of SIX generations! Ola Mae has 19 grandkids, 29 great grandkids, and 5 great-great-great grandkids, the youngest being under a year.
She attended the Church of Christ in Rogersville, and her favorite scripture is John 3:16, certainly a word that we all love. She never watched TV, but they did “crowd around the radio and listen to Sick Call,” she told me.
We moved on to her list of favorites–
Color: Blue. “Mine, too,” I told her.
Song: “When We All Get To Heaven” I sang some of it to her, and asked her if it was the one that went on to say, “What a day of rejoicing that will be/ When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.” She said, “yes,” and I smiled.
President: She never had one, “because they are all about the same.”
Food: To make? “Broccoli salad.” To eat? “Broccoli and cheese sauce.” Unlike President George H.W. Bush, this woman loves her broccoli.
Activity at the facility? “Bingo.” And I hear she is really good at it.
What does she think of the facility? “I’ve been very happy here, all of ‘ems good to me.”
Advice to young people? “Stay off smoking, dope and beer.” Timeless wisdom, and ‘nuff said!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner