Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Miss Mary’s life: A memorable journey

  • Age has made Hannibal’s Mary Carter a celebrity, but it is the wisdom born of that age that makes her memorable.

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  • Age has made Hannibal’s Mary Carter a celebrity, but it is the wisdom born of that age that makes her memorable.
    Family records indicate that today, Mary Carter turns 106. In the last few years, the Courier-Post has been chronicling “Miss Mary’s” life, and we have learned that this staunchly independent woman of color has outlived 12 siblings, risen up after losing her two children to early deaths, and endured a lifetime of poverty and prejudice. Yet she lives a contented life, firmly entrenched in the foundation of Christianity.
    Her mother - Eveline Dryden - lived to be 105, Miss Mary said, so she wasn’t surprised to live so long. Her wants are few these days, and her birthday wish is simple: To be surrounded by family and friends today at her little clapboard home on Spruce Street - in a neighborhood known as “the hood.”
    Miss Mary can’t see much due to glaucoma, yet a bible has a prominent spot on her bookcase. Pictures of family members are scattered throughout the house, but those, too, remain a blur to Miss Mary’s line of vision. There’s an ashtray on the coffee table, but she doesn’t smoke. A key to the city hangs on a wall hook, and there’s a radio tuned to KHMO. The telephone beside her overstuffed chair serves as her lifeline to the outside world, bringing friends, family and even unsolicited salesmen into her world.
    Right down the hall in the tiny home is the kitchen, fully equipped - in case anyone wants to fry up a batch of chicken - Miss Mary’s favorite. That’s a far cry from the free chicken feet a young Mary would stand in line for at a packing plant downtown, which her mother would serve up to the family’s 13 children.
    Neighbors keep an eye on the white picket gate leading to Miss Mary’s front door, and a hook-and-eye lock secures the screen door shut. But Miss Mary isn’t afraid. “Of what?” she asked of this journalist’s inquiry. She maintains that her neighbors are the sweetest of any she’s ever known, and appreciates how they keep an eye out for her. But she’s adamant she can take care of herself. “Nobody takes care of Mary Carter except Mary Carter,” she boasts. Well, her granddaughter does take her to the doctor, and the Hannibal Nutrition Center does deliver her a daily meal, which doesn’t cost her anything. And those neighbors are watching out their windows for suspicious characters who might intend harm to the neighborhood matriarch.
    Many members of Miss Mary’s family - including her mother - are buried at Robinson Cemetery, Hannibal’s historic black burial site. The last time she visited this cemetery, she fell, so she won’t go back. Her final resting place will be Grand View, whenever the time comes.
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    Miss Mary says her goal for the next year of her life is simple: To be happy. That’s a sound message from a woman who has marked so many birthdays, and that just might be the secret to her longevity.
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