Mary Johns was born at her parents’ home in Elkmont, the 4th of 12 children. The year was 1934, in the darkness of the Great Depression, and as is the case with so many Americans, what didn’t kill them just made them stronger. One of the things they did to get through it was hold dances in their home. “We had a big house, and people would come to our home to dance, and we would go to theirs,” she told me.
Their family attended the Church of Christ in Elkmont, and Mary went to Elkmont High. It wasn’t too long before she was swept off her feet by a handsome sailor. “He was so good looking,” she said with a sigh. As far as being a good husband, not so much. His handsomeness turned out to be his weakness.
She did remarry, had a son, a daughter, grandkids and great grandkids, and they are all the joy of her life. For 15 years she worked at L & S on Jefferson. “What did you do there?” I asked her. “Everything,” she said without a moment’s hesitation. As it soon became apparent by our conversation, Miss Mary is what my father would have called a “pistol,” and I needed no further clarification as to how hard she worked at L & S or at being a mom.
She came to Athens Rehab and Senior Care four months ago, and as is almost always the case, had a tough time leaving her home and surrendering some of her independence. However, now she says she “likes everything about it.”
“It’s a party every day.”
Her favorite activity at the Center? Dancing. “I love to draw crowds,” she added. Her favorite game? “Rook.” Apparently, according to Activities Director Keisha Coleman, (who is also Miss Mary’s favorite employee,) Ms. Johns is no slouch at it, either.
Mary’s favorite food? “Fried chicken.” Her least favorite food? “Oysters.” Keisha and I gave a hearty amen to that, went “Ewwww,” at their sliminess, and I added that I didn’t think they were originally designed to be eaten.
Her favorite colors? “Red and black.” Hence, they were the colors she wore for the interview. Favorite movie? “Gone With The Wind,” although she added that as a kid growing up she rarely saw any films.
Then we hit the subject of music, and her lively eyes became more so. She “danced” while resting in her bed and said that she loved “anything Elvis.” Her all time favorite Elvis song is “Return to Sender.” She loves country music as well, with George Jones and Loretta Lynn at the top of the list. I think it’s safe to say “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is just about Mary’s personal anthem.
Biggest change or event in her lifetime? “Going to the moon. We should be proud of Rocket City,” she said.
Advice to young people? “Always let the Lord come first. He is always right there beside you.”
Good words from a woman who has worked hard, lights up the room, and is loving life at Athens Rehabilitation and Senior Care.
By: Ali Elzabeth Turner