Mixon turns 90

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2001

Peruse the pages of an old copy of "Echoes", the senior annual of the Butler County High School, and you'll take a step back in time. . .

The year is 1928, the last year of prosperity before the long, dark days of the time we'd come to call "the Great Depression."

The Great War-the one they said would put an end to all other wars-had been fought and won in the fields of Europe. Amazing modern inventions like the radio, airplanes and electric appliances seem almost within the realm of science fiction for many Americans.

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These are heady times for the 70 young men and women who will graduate and go out into an ever-changing new society . . .

Within the pages of the 28 "Echoes" you'll discover the senior portrait of a girl named Marie Mixon.

Her pretty, rather pensive face is framed in thick fair hair, pertly bobbed in the popular style of the day.

Beneath her photo are inscribed these words:

" . . . her gentleness is combined with a happy disposition."

"Those are the perfect words to describe our Aunt Marie.

She has always been a kind, happy person," proclaims Barbara Wilson, wife of Bud Wilson, Miss Marie's nephew. The Wilsons and their children and grandchildrenindeed, all of this special lady's extended familyseem to consider their soft-spoken, gentle-hearted aunt the crown jewel' of the Mixon family.

Several friends and family members will be joining Miss Marie for a trip to her favorite restaurant on February 15th-just one day shy of her 90th birthday.

When asked if she ever thought she'd make it into the 21st century, Miss Marie smiles and quickly replies, "Oh, no-never."

Never married, she provided loving care to first her father "Daddy Mick" and then to her mother "Mama Mick" before the two passed away.

A life-long resident of the Camellia City, Miss Marie now resides at Pine Needle Place assisted living facility.

While she praises the relaxing "home-like" atmosphere she enjoys there (and the good rest she gets in her big green recliner), Miss Marie is hardly one who's lived a life of leisure.

For 35 years, from 1942 to 1977, she was local businessman Mr. Cheatum's "right -hand woman", the reliable employee he could always depend upon in his business, Commerce St.'s Master Market.

Great-niece Angie (Wilson) Hood fondly remembers the days of family visits to Greenville, and especially those expeditions to see Aunt Marie at the grocery.

"She would always let us get some trinket or an ice cream cone . . . to an eight-year-old, it was heaven!" Hood gleefully comments.

It seems Aunt Marie always had something (delightful) up her sleeve when it came to "her" kids.

"She lived for years in a house on Bolling Street-it's gone now-and that house had a big sandy play yard underneath a tall, shady old oak tree in the back.

The kids loved to play out there . . . Aunt Marie taught them all how to make frog houses' in the sand with their feet," explains Wilson.

It seems that all good nieces and nephews who took their afternoon naps as requested were promised a special treat: a coin left to them by a frog (a prince in disguise, perhaps?) within the houses' the child had created.

Miss Marie herself received a big surprise on one occasion when she took one of her nephews out to check his "frog house".

"Lo and behold-there was this little frog sitting there right on that coin I'd placed in the frog house' for my little nephew!" Miss Marie chuckles with delight at the long-ago memory, adding, " Now THAT made him a believer!"

Miss Marie herself has long been a practicing believer at Greenville's First United Methodist Church.

A member for over 80 years, she misses the days of regular attendance ("I can't manage all those stairs") but is thrilled the ladies hold their Methodist Circle meetings at Pine Needle Place.

Great-niece Hood describes her aunt as the family's "prayer warrior, praying for all our far flung relations around the globe."

In her younger years Miss Marie also enjoyed an active membership in first the Business and Professional Women's Club and later the Pilot Club. She has been one of the Camellia City's most generous blood donors throughout the years ("I lost count after the first gallon or two") until recent health complications prevented her from donating.

She's also made sure she went to the polls and voted her convictions through decades of election campaigns.

Miss Marie is legendary in the community for the large number of delicious made-from-scratch cakes she's baked for everyone from birthday boys and girls and new neighbors to sick friends and families in mourning.

Injuries have put a halt to her baking days, but she still can enjoy reminiscing, including fun memorie about another favorite pastime of days gone by: fishing.

"Oh, yes, every year I had two weeks of vacation and I took one week in the spring and the other in the fall.

Another lady and I went down to the Magnolia River and stayed in Mr. Cheatum's cottage there-and we fished and fished," Miss Marie recalls with a smile.

Early morning crabbing expeditions always yielded several pounds of crabmeat to take home and share with friends and neighbors.

An unusual-and uninvited-guest made a regular late afternoon appearance in the cottage yard.

"This alligator would come up in the yard every day close to dark

. . . he'd just lay out there until daybreak when he headed back into the water."

Miss Marie explains that the gator never bothered them-and they certainly weren't about to trouble HIM.

A less potentially hazardous "critter" experience came for Miss Marie when she routinely bird-sat the Cheatum's parrot, "Peeka", while the couple vacationed.

Even though the days of fishing trips, frog houses and parrot-sitting are long past, it's not

difficult for Miss Marie to conjure up memories of her good old days.'

"The table where I sit in the [Pine Needle Place] dining room has several of the girls I went to high school with at it, too . . . when they found out I was here they especially requested I sit with them," a pleased Miss Marie explains.

If you happen to be dining at Nanny's restaurant on February 15 and notice a smiling group there surrounding an attractive elderly lady-well, it's probably a crew of Mixons, Wilsons and Hoods, assembled to honor that family VIP they call Aunt Marie.

Happy 90th birthday to Marie Mixon-a Camellia City treasure.