Remembering Mam-Ma

January 29, 2015

By Tab Byrum

Today is a special day for my family, today would have been my Grandmother’s 100th birthday.

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I always admired my Grandma a great deal, she was the original version of a single mother.  Her work ethic was incredible, something she passed along to her family.  Mam-Ma loved to cook and she loved good food, two things we also inherited from her.  She was well known for her pies, chicken and dumplings, green bean soup and so much more.  I still can’t boil chicken to make broth and soup with out smelling it and thinking of her, better than any perfume.

My Grandma Minnie, we referred to her as Mam-Ma, was born on January 29th, 1915 in Olustee, Oklahoma, the youngest of 12 children. She lived all of her life in Western Oklahoma with the first half of it being spent in or on farms around Hydro, Oklahoma.  Her parent’s were farmers and that was the life she lived for the first 44 years of her life. 

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Mam-Ma is front row, second from the left, standing in front of her mother, Elzora

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I’ve always loved this picture of Mam-Ma, she could have been the original Morton’s Salt girl. 

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Here’s Mam-Ma on the left end sitting with her 3 sisters, Icy, Crittie and Ida, along with their mother on the running board of a car. 

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I’ve always thought this photo was so glamorous of Mam-Ma.

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 She married her husband Johnny in 1941, together they rented and farmed land and had three daughters, Rita, Judy and Linda.

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Minnie and Johnny’s wedding picture.

Sadly they were only together for 18 years, my grandpa died in 1959 of a massive heart attack, he was only 45.  Minnie was forced to sell all their farming equipment and cattle at auction and move to town and get a job, she went to work at the Hydro Co-Op Grain Elevator, she ran the big scales that weighed the trucks before and after they were loaded with grain to be trucked to other cities.  Mam-Ma worked at the elevator for 20 years, she retired at 65 but immediately started another job, working in a women’s dress shop where she continued to work on a part time basis for another 20 years.

Mam-Ma also loved pretty clothes and she had a closet full, she always had beautiful dresses and suits she wore to church and I usually always gave her a piece of jewelry for Christmas, another thing she loved was sparkle. She loved jokes, playing cards, Christmas, travel and her family.  Her house was where Santa Claus brought my gifts as a child and the Easter Bunny hid eggs, there was always a glass jug of cold water in the refrigerator and cookies in the cookie jar.  She had a red and gold sofa that was a hide-a-bed that I still covet to this day as well as some mid-century chairs that went away during a living room redo. 

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Mam-Ma and her girls, Linda, Judy (my mom) and Rita, on her 80th Birthday. 

The day before she died my mom called and said she wasn’t doing well and if I wanted to see her I needed to come, she had been in the hospital for a while, I drove out that afternoon.  When I got there she was struggling to breathe from congestive heart failure, I sat on her bed and took her hand, she opened her eyes, looked at me and squeezed my hand and said, “I’m so glad you’re here”, those were the last words my grandma spoke to me.  I spent the night at the hospital sleeping on the floor by her bed and my Aunt Linda sleeping in a chair, neither one of us got much sleep.  She made it through the next day but died around midnight the next night.  Mam-Ma lived to be 91, she was a widow for 47 years and never really got over losing her husband at such a young age, but took great solace in those of us who called her mom and Mam-Ma. 

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I by no means want anyone to feel like this is a sad tribute, while her life had some big obstacles and tragedies,  for the most part my Grandmother’s life was happy, filled with her children, grandchildren, friends, church and work.  I want us to remember her today and celebrate her life.  So here’s to my Grandma, a woman with her own way of doing things with great style and good taste.  We miss her everyday, love you Mam-Ma. 

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15 comments

  • Sheila

    Mam-ma would love this! I admired her strong work ethic and love for her family. Our Grandchildren don’t remember her but they hear stories about her and they love her chicken and dumplings!

  • Sharon

    Don’t think I knew your mom and Rita were sisters If I did I’d forgotten Wonderful tribute Great family

  • Julie

    Hi, Tab. I went to church with your Mam-ma my whole life. She was a very loyal church member with a sensitive heart.
    I worked with her one harvest at the Co-op. Every once in a while, we had a few minutes to talk about things. She always spoke so fondly of her husband… Such a strong woman!

  • Amanda (Carney) Stockton

    tab, this was just beautiful! I remember Minnie and she was a sweet lady for sure! I also love your blog. You are a fantastic writer and incredibly talented designer.

    • Tab Byrum

      Thanks Amanda, she was a sweet lady and very strong at the same time. Thanks for the compliments and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again!!!

  • Cynthia

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother Tab. I see a great resemblance between you two. In her “glamorous” photo, there is no denying you are her grandson. Then there are the similarities with sparkles, clothes, food and family. I think Mam-Ma would be so honored to know you loved her so much that you shared her memory with all of us on her birthday today. Happy Birthday Mam-Ma.

  • Linda

    Thanks for doing this Tab. Mamma would be so proud. I loved reading it and looking at the pictures again!

  • Everett

    Great job Tab your Mam-ma would certainly be very proud of you. Thanks for doing it.

  • Karla Bell

    What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother! Loved it and will enjoy following your blog now that I’m aware of it! Loved the picture of Minnie and her three daughters!

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