Lifelong resident celebrates 90th birthday this weekend

Published 3:00 pm Monday, September 8, 2008

She’s a longtime Boss Manufacturing Company employee, acclaimed bakery chef, amazing seamstress and devoted longtime church member.

She’s Katie Lou Virginia Rhodes Parmer, and she’ll be 90 years young come September 15.

“Miss” Katie’s family and friends will celebrate with her on Sept. 14 at Chef’s Table in downtown Greenville.

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No doubt they will reminisce about a long life well lived and all the tasty, warm and comforting memories she has created.

“Miss Katie is such a special lady,” says her daughter-in-law, Mary LeGrand Parmer of Chapel Hill, N.C.

“She has so many talents and abilities she has shared with the community and her family.”

Miss Katie, who learned to cook on a wood stove, baked hundreds of cakes from scratch – from red velvet and German chocolate to rich, buttery pound cakes and layer cakes with caramel and coconut fillings, LeGrand says.

“Her husband, Mr. Frank, also took her wonderful Christmas plates to Floyd McGowin at W.T. Smith where he worked, and to shut-ins and church members. Everyone loved those plates of creamy fudge, fruit rock cookies, petite pecan pies, fried spice pecans and decorated Christmas cookies,” LeGrand recalls.

She also shared tins of her holiday goodies with her extended family wherever they might be living.

“Every Thanksgiving, her grandson Walter and granddaughter, Mary Kathryn, also yearn for her pecan or pumpkin pies!” her daughter-in-law recalls with a smile.

Miss Katie is also famous for the fruits of her labors gleaned from Mr. Frank’s garden.

“She would share her homemade sweet pickles and jars and jars of pears, green beans, fig and watermelon rind preserves, squash relish, homemade Brunswick stew – – my husband, Walter Ray still takes home jars of her homemade goodness back to Chapel Hill after every visit,” LeGrand says.

Miss Katie’s skills are not limited to the kitchen.

“She is an amazing seamstress and quilter. Tiny, tiny stitches, intricate patterns and such quick work on over 100 quilts she has made to give as gifts or to sell at the Watermelon Jubilee and other events,” LeGrand says.

“Her grandchildren’s homes are full of the beautiful quilts she has made. They hang on walls and cover beds. She has two great-granddaughter who are seven and nine who are always begging for more quilts.”

Miss Katie and Mr. Frank shared more than 50 years of marriage together before his death in 1988. She still lives in the home they built back in 1947 across from Gravel Hill Baptist Church, where she is their oldest living member.

“As I said, she is a very special person and we look forward to celebrating her wonderful life with her this weekend,” LeGrand says.