Sardis resident Lillie Beasely going strong

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

(This week, the Journal spotlights Crenshaw County resident Lillie Beasley, who was born in 1917.)

By Kevin Pearcey

Lillie Beasley said she told her husband Ford once 'if I'd known your age I don't think I would have married you.'

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"I would have called that 'cheatin' the cradle,'" she said. She was 31 at the time. He was 30. "But he told me 'that's what makes a good wife. Because, being older, they know much more than the husband.' But, Lord, I thought, I didn't know anything."

After enlisting in the Army in 1944, Beasley said Ford served in General George S. Patton's famed Third Army during World War II. He was a tank commander and took part in the Battle of the Bulge. He was severely injured by a piece of shrapnel, said Beasley, having to 'hold his stomach' together before being transported to a field hospital for medical attention.

"He always said the 'Lord took care of me,'" she said.

Beasley said recollections of the war troubled Ford often. Stopping once during a particularly cold night, he and a young soldier under his command started to heat some coffee beside the road when a gun went off accidentally on another American tank and shot the soldier.

"He yelled out 'Beasley, they got me,'" she said. "But by the time Ford got there he was already gone."

She was born near Petrey in 1917 to Eddie Frank Holland and Mattie Holland. Beasley's mother played the organ and her father the harmonica.

"I wanted to play that organ so bad, so my mother taught me. She played at the Methodist church," Beasley recalled. "My feet could barely reach the pedals!"

She met Ford at a banquet and dance in 1946 at Petrey.

"Ford knew my brother," she said. "He was dancing with another girl, but when he saw me he just stopped dancing with her and left her on the floor. That got after me, because I thought she may have been his girlfriend. He told me later that he'd just met her that night."

The two married on Nov. 21, 1947. Beasley said they re-did and built on to a house in Sardis and that was their first home. Ford borrowed $600 and sold 10 pigs for $1200 and that was what they purchased the house with.

"We still had money left over for paint and rugs," she said. "We didn't have lights until way after that."

Beasley said Ford drove a school bus for three years. The Board of Education wanted him because he didn't drink. Soon after, he took up painting houses and she helped him when she wasn't working at Luverne Slacks. Their son, Joe, was born in 1952.

"We'd go all around and paint houses," she said. "We'd fix up a little pallet in the car for Joe to sleep on."

Ford died in January after 57 years of marriage.

"We had a good life," she said. "We had a poor life, but we made the most of it. We worked together. He was a good man. He helped people anyway he could."

Beasley said once a family's car broke down near their home. She and Ford gave up their beds so the mother, father and four children would have a place to sleep the night. The morning after, Ford awoke early and helped her make breakfast for the family.

"The mother offered to pay me, but I told her 'no ma'am, the Lord pays me everyday," said Beasley.

She said she's lived a 'blessed' life.

"I'm not under the care of a doctor or anything like that," she said. "About the only thing I've had done to me is back surgery."

Beasley said she was afraid the back specialist would tell her she couldn't dance again after the surgery. But, to her surprise, he told her dancing was one of the best exercises she could do for her back if done right.

"I told him you tell me what to do and I'll do it," she said.

A few years back, she won first place in the Buck Dancing contest at the Rattlesnake Rodoe in Opp.

Her only regret was that they snapped her picture for the newspaper holding a Skoal T-shirt, sponsors of the contest.

"A man asked me what kind of dip I used," she said. "I told him I had never used tobacco

in my life."