Stephen F. Austin State University

Mary Goff Turns 100 (February 2012)

Mary Goff Turns 100
By Deborah Burkett

(Note: July 2010, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Mary Goff and conduct an oral history video. With one of Mary's best friends, Mavis Wallace, at my side it was truly an uplifting experience.)

A life lived 100 years can't be truly appreciated without first putting that life in historical context. Mary Ellen Bailey (Goff) was born February 17, 1912, the same year the sinking of the RMS Titanic occurred and two years before the start of World War One.

When your life spans a century your story can't be told quickly. For this tribute three chapters from Mary's 'life book' will be shared: place of birth, employment history and fondest memory of Cherokee County, which by the way resulted in a secret never before shared.

First, her birthplace is important to the history of the county. Mary was born at Forest, a community in the Wells vicinity, located 23 miles south of Rusk in Cherokee County. Between 1882 and 1885 the Kansas and Gulf Short Line was built north-to-south through the county, bringing rail service to Rusk, Alto and beyond. Along the route new towns such as Forest, Wells, Dialville, Craft, Mount Selman and Bullard were established.

Mary worked at a variety of jobs throughout her life and it was clear a positive attitude and a belief in the moral value of work served her well. She talked about the importance of staying busy, "I can hardly get around now but I try to stay active. In my life I worked at many businesses around the Square in Rusk… I stocked and worked in a Dry Goods Store…In the summer Magoline Tosh and I packed tomatoes at J.P. Acker's Shed...I worked nursing service in private homes …for a time I was in the kitchen at the high school feeding those kids…I put in my twenty years with the Rusk State Hospital, retired at 62..." (That's where she and Mavis Wallace cemented their friendship, working in the Central Kitchen).

When asked about her fondest memory of Cherokee County Mary replied, "Going to school at Jones Chapel and going to the church in the flat…I remember country dances and the Hugghins boy."

When asked for more details Mary beamed as she shared, "He was too sweet to talk about, he was my first love...It's the memories, you see, that are precious…" When asked if she still liked to dance her reply was, "I just had shots in my knees three days ago; I bet I could dance right now…"

Such a positive and upbeat lady! During the interview, Mary spoke of the joys of many things--work, first love, quilting, friends and family. So what does one say to such a person who happens to be marking 100 years? Happy Birthday doesn't seem to quite do it. Words like 'Hallelujah' and 'Congrats on Another Year' seem more appropriate.

Also 'Way to Go Girl' comes to mind. Regardless of the words chosen, only the very best wishes are meant for Rusk resident, Mary Goff.

Mary Goff and the LaMoyne Star Quilt. This was Mary's last quilt; she pieced the top and Mavis Wallace hand quilted it. Mary shared, "I learned to quilt very young…as far back as I can remember someone in the family was making a quilt. I've been in this house 66 years and always had a quilting frame hanging from the ceiling…"