Episode 22: The Purposeful Life of Mary Sue Hogan Dillard

Thanks to my Dysartsville friend Mary Sue, I am back to writing again. I love to put words together and have had a passion to investigate my neighbors history in this community where I have lived only ten years. I am still a newcomer to some whose families settled here in the Revolutionary War. Mary Sue was a newcomer also, she moved here with her family in the 1930’s during the Depression. (See Episode #4: Learning Dysartsville). I had several opportunities to talk with her about the neighborhood, and she loved to share her stories. My friend went to her reward for a life well lived for 88 years. Her standing-room only farewell at the Beam Funeral Home in Marion was held on December 15, 2018. But she left thousands of memories that will be remembered for ages. Composing my notes of our conversations together has broken my lethargic slump, and I am back at the computer telling tales.

Mary Sue retired as a CNA for J. Iverson Riddle in Morganton and was a founding member of Dysartsville Volunteer Fire Department where she served for over twenty years. The Fire Department covered her casket with their flag and escorted her to a final resting place with honorary pallbearers. Along with other activities, she had been actively involved with the youth in the community, four years as a 4H leader and two years as a Boy Scout leader.

Which brings me to our conversation in July of 2016 at her daughter Amelia’s home. I asked her what she knew about the Mecklenberg County Boy Scout property at the corner of Vein Mountain Rd and US Hiway 226. Every summer it opens for hundreds of campers from the Charlotte area.

Mary Sue did not disappoint. “It used to be the old J.D. Blanton farm.”

I had written several times on this blog about Mr. Blanton, but just to make sure, I asked, “Is that the Blanton that had the grocery store in Marion, and the department store?” His family lived in the gorgeous white antebellum home that is now a commercial business next to the post office on Main Street.

“He had everything. He used to own Marion.” Mary Sue went on to tell me her relationship with the Albert family who purchased the farm. The Alberts were from Ohio, on their way to Florida. They had to stay all night in Marion and talked to a realtor who took them down here to Dysartsville to “show you this before you go on,” said Mary Sue. “Mr. Albert wanted cattle. Well, he got the cattle and put ’em in there, and he went back to Ohio to live, and left her (his wife) here with the cattle.” Mary Sue pointed out that in that day, phone service had not come to Dysartsville, so Mrs. Albert had to drive to Marion or Rutherfordton to order her feed. Dorothea Albert was really alone in an old house in a foreign country, so to speak. (An earlier post describes her, as told by her neighbor across the street, Mike Allison.)

Evidently, Dorothea eventually got some help because the next part of Mary Sue’s story was about her driving down from Ohio with her youngest child with special needs, who would play with Amelia. They both enjoyed dancing. Dorothea would have two more children, a son who practiced medicine in Virginia, and another daughter who became a nurse.

After Rudolph Albert died, his wife stayed on at the farm.When Amelia grew up, she and Mary Sue would drive Mrs. Albert to Ohio to visit her siblings. Her brother Carl had a big farm, and they would stay there. After the Albert farm was sold, Dorothea lived in some apartment in Marion, but her daughter had a disease “that in the winter you could see your bones, so she had to go to a warm place.” So Dorothea soon moved to Florida with her daughter. Mary Sue kept up correspondence with her, sharing the happenings of the Dysartsville community.

In 2007, Dorothea passed away at age 100. Her older daughter Barbara had already passed at age 60. Her younger daughter Ursula, called Sue, sent Mary Sue an announcement and a note that she would cover airfare if Amelia couldn’t drive her up for the funeral. It was typical of Mary Sue to tell Amelia she was going to the funeral, even though Amelia’s son was getting married and she had more than enough to do. But Amelia is her mama’s daughter. When she saw Mary Sue had rented a van to drive to Ohio, she said, “You’re not going to go to the wedding?” Mary Sue said, “No, I’ll see them from now on. I’m going to Ohio. Will you go with me or not?” She told me, “I was to foller the directions that they said and then go to the motel where they was all staying at.”

Amelia was right there, and always has been. Mary Sue said that year the Albert family “couldn’t do enough for us.” But when they went into the motel, “there was a big crowd standin’ there, and we stood over to the back like, and I said, “There’s Rudolph.” (The son.) “And he turned around and saw me, and he grabbed us by the arms and went down the hallway with us and took us to the room right beside of theirs. And I told Amelia she better go up there with the tag number so they wouldn’t tow that car off.” And the lady at the check in counter said, “you’re the two that they grabbed and run down the hallway with? I knew they had a room for somebody but I didn’t know who.” These dignitaries from Dysartsville impressed the locals in Akron. Dorothea’s family also took them out for dinner at a restaurant where they rented the upstairs. And of course provided their breakfast before the Dillards started home. Treated them like family.

Although Mary Sue was impressed with the cemetery, describing the “tomb rock” in the center of four plots for the remains of eight people, all cremated, she didn’t remember anything else about visiting Ohio.

Since then, Ursula has also died. She had not told Mary Sue how sick she was, but Mary Sue corresponded with Ursula’s daughter in Ohio, who had gone down to Florida to bring her mother back home. Another good daughter like Amelia, she also packed up her daddy’s things and moved him to Ohio to live with her. Since this Albert daughter is still working, she had to put him in a home when he became too ill to stay alone.

Back to the Scout property. I thought the Alberts sold it to the Boy Scouts but Mary Sue was sure there was another owner between them. (Since then I have been told that Jack Morris owned it) Mary Sue could remember the big dances they held out there, and the watershed built on the property. “They damned up the road to make the watershed so it would have enough water during the droughts.”

Mary Sue described a long road that goes far into the property and said it’s interesting to go over there and see the things they’ve built, ‘to slide down on and everything.” One day she stopped at the Baptist Church because there was a car “settin’ there, and I thought mayabe he needed help, so I pulled in and asked him if he was all right.” He said he was just waiting to go over to the Boy Scout place where they were going to have a big cookout. “And so we talked awhile, and he says ‘Come on over and visit. That’s a nice guy over there. He’ll show you around’.” So she went and was impressed. Especially since one day at the Fire Department, someone said there were 500 kids over there, and they couldn’t be heard. Mary Sue said, “The first scoutmaster, he come to the community club, he come to the Fire Dept, he went to the church, and he said that was their rules or something, you had to belong to everything in the community. But these others don’t. Now the second one who was there, he belonged to the Fire Department. He done that electrician work, down where that car garage is, that used to be the Fire Department. (226 Tire) But he was…he liked boys instead of a woman. He didn’t have no wife and all. They should have thought of something but they didn’t, and he killed two boys because they had told about him. And they was lookin’ everywhere for ’em, and they found them out behind a building, buried.”

“They were probably teenagers, but they was liking the money he give them. But he found out, and he had told them he what he would do if they told it on him.” “Then they had court and you know who he blamed it on? His mother. She was an alcoholic and didn’t raise him. But he was in for life.”

I was not totally shocked by this story because I had heard it a couple times already. Still a sad, gruesome tale, no matter the setting. These are just some of our conversations; she loved to visit with everyone. The last time I went to her house, I took my dog’s bed and her food because Zion was no longer in need of anything I could give her. Mary Sue had adopted a stray dog. She was always looking to help others, even though she was wobbly on her feet. She continually put her cane/walker to the side so she could use both hands to give to others, like the kids she handed out sweets to. Pastor Don Morrison called her “the sweet lady,” who enjoyed life and enjoyed seeing all the folks at the Dysartsville Food Pantry where she had volunteered for the last eight years. Always with a big smile and a friendly word for everyone.

At the recent neighborhood celebration of her life, Mary Sue’s nephew played his guitar and dedicated an 1880’s song to her, “I’m Just a Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger.’ After he introduced himself, he adjusted his guitar, saying he could hear her telling him to do it right or sit down. Pastor Stephen Painter said she was faithful and honest. “She’d tell you what she was thinking.” And sometimes it was painful. But most importantly, he said, “And she knew when she closed her eyes that last time, she would see Jesus when she opened them again.”

In my opinion, Mary Sue did not have an envious or self-serving heart that elevated herself above others. She may have acted quietly, some might say meekly, but she knew she was a child of the King, and did not suffer foes weakly. Mary Sue made excellent use of her time here in Dysartsville, and I will miss her.


Copyright @2018 Georgia Wilson

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2 Responses to Episode 22: The Purposeful Life of Mary Sue Hogan Dillard

  1. Mike Dysart says:

    Hi Georgia Ruth,
    I was glad to receive your posting. Thank you for writing again. I always enjoy the stories, events and people you talk about.
    Mike Dysart

    • georgia ruth says:

      Mike, thank you for your much needed applause! I love to write but often wonder if anyone out there is reading. Your response is timely and nutrition to my spirit. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

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