Thursday, July 5, 2007
“Aunt Mary” celebrates 100th
A special banquet was held at Wall Doxey Park Banquet Hall on Saturday, May 12, to honor and celebrate the upcoming 100th birthday of Mary Gaiter, of Waterford. She is affectionately called “Aunt Mary” by family and friends. This was hosted and sponsored by her grandchildren; J.R. Pryor Jr., R.C. Pryor, and S.T. Pryor of Aurora, IL, Mrs. Bobbie Campbell of Batavia, Ill., Mrs. Betty Guy and Willie Boyd Pryor of Fort Wayne, Ind, Ivory Lee Pryor, A.D. Pryor, Freedonia Jones and Mary Shaw of Holly Springs. They all would later celebrate Mother's Day at the home of their parents, Mr. J.R. and Cleopatria Pryor of Holly Springs.
When she awakened on the morning of May 12, Mary Gaiter had no idea what the day had in store for her. As her granddaughters, Bobbie and Betty entered the room, they told her it was time to get dressed because she was going to a party. They helped dress her in a gorgeous pink suit that came from a boutique in Batavia, Ill., an elegant white hat and white leather ballerina shoes. The final touch was a pink and white corsage made especially for this big day. She was absolutely beautiful, and little did she know that she was about to attend the “Celebration of the Century” because her 100th birthday was just a few days away. Her great-grandsons, Ross Campbell, Spencer Campbell Jr., and Dreece Guy, handled her with royal, and gentle care, lifting her in and out of the car, to and from the banquet.
Not even a world famous celebrity or diplomat could have received a better reception or the standing ovation that she received as she entered the banquet hall at Wall Doxey. In addition to those lined up at the entrance, the cameras were flashing from every corner of the room. Even as great-grandson, Spencer Jr. lovingly escorted her to the head table, the cameras kept flashing, and the video recorders kept rolling. The only thing brighter than the flashing lights was the sparkle in Aunt Mary’s eyes, and her beaming smile. She knew without a doubt that this was her day and she could feel all the love and admiration in the room.
Granddaughter Freedonia Jones, who was the M.C, opened the program. Her oldest grandson, J.R. Pryor Jr, gave an emotional family prayer. Her granddaughter, Patricia Savage, of Dolton, Ill. gave a heartfelt welcome address that could be felt by all present. Bobbie Campbell gave the occasion and stressed that although we were there to celebrate Aunt Mary’s upcoming birthday, we were there for much more. We were there to honor her, thank her, and to show our love and appreciation for the life she has lived and the examples she has set for us.
Her baby sister, Helen Miller of Memphis sang a song. Even at 90 yrs. old, “Aunt Helen’s” voice was just as powerful and emotional as in her younger days. It was so inspirational, and as she sang, our guest of honor, joined in, which brought tears to the eyes of almost everyone present. Words of encouragement were given by her son-in-law, J.R. Pryor, who expressed how much he cared for, and respected Aunt Mary, and what she has meant to him over the years.
Aunt Mary is a great-great-great grandmother, representing six generations of God’s blessings and special presentations were given by each generation. It began with her grandson, S.T. Pryor and his daughter Tonya Majersky. They held Tonya’s twin sons, Chase and Lincoln as they presented flowers to Aunt Mary, representing the sixth generation. She was fascinated by the twins and very reluctantly released the baby she was holding after the presentation. Her great-great-grandson, Isaiah Jones gave her a rose representing the fifth generation. Then all the children presented her with a flower and sang a song to her. Since Aunt Mary really loves children, she was thrilled to see them and hear them sing. Her granddaughter, Mary Shaw, coordinated the little children’s presentation.
Great-granddaughter Tonya Majersky gave her a pink rose representing the fourth generation. Great-granddaughter, Katina Ginn gave her a white rose in memory of her brothers, Ricky and Larnell Pryor, representing Aunt Mary’s “grand-angels” who are no longer with us, but will always be here in spirit and in our hearts.
Betty Guy gave her grandmother a deep pink rose, representing the third generation. She spoke eloquently and emotionally about what Aunt Mary meant to us all. She said Aunt Mary was there for her birth, and for the birth of all her sisters and brothers. She mentioned that Aunt Mary was also there when we were born again and baptized. She spoke of how good and kind Aunt Mary is, about how she loves God, that she loves all people, and would do anything for anyone. She stressed how much Aunt Mary loves little children, and enjoyed working with them in the church. She mentioned how she would sing “Oh When The Saints Go Marching In” as the children would march up to the front of the church after Sunday School class. Then she told of how Aunt Mary always reminded us to pray and never forget about God. That even after we were married, she told us to be good wives and husbands, and stay in church. She said that after we had left home, Aunt Mary would ask if we still go to church, and pressed even further, by asking if we went some time, or all the time. Then she made sure we were training our children up in church. Betty reminded us that Aunt Mary has always been a constant source of love, strength, inspiration, and guidance throughout our entire lives, from childhood to adulthood. It was such a powerful, and moving tribute to Aunt Mary, because she voiced what everyone was feeling. No one, past or present, could have said it better.
Her niece, Georgia Vann presented a yellow rose, representing all of Aunt Mary’s loved ones who have gone on before, and requested a moment of silence in their memory.
Her husband of over 77 years of marriage, Mose Gaiter, was unable to attend the celebration, but did send his regrets.
Now it was time for the second generation presentations. Her son, Hubert Wells gave her a red rose representing his generation. He said how much he loved his mother and was overjoyed that this special celebration had been planned for her. He stressed that words could not begin to express his feelings and excitement in just being part of this blessed event.
Then daughter, Opatria Pryor, presented her mother with another red rose. She said how glad she was to be there, and how much she loved her. She thanked her for all that she had done for her, and how she has always been there for her, even the birth of all 10 of her children. You could see the love and appreciation on her face and in her eyes. She gave her mother a kiss and told her she loved her.
Finally, it was time for our guest of honor to speak. The first thing she said was that she wished she had been given more notice. She stated how much she appreciated this special honor and how much she loved everyone. She said she really enjoyed the children’s song, and that she wanted to hear them again. She was absolutely overjoyed when they sang for her again. Since she is such a great singer, she was asked to sing a song, but agreed only if everyone would sing with her. Everyone joined in as she sang “Oh When The Saints Go Marching In,” which is her song.
Family and friends were acknowledged, and words of thanks were given. Many were in attendance, including family from the East Coast to the West Coast. Family members came from Georgia, California, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Minnesota for this great celebration. She received many cards, gifts and well wishes from all over, even as far away as California, from Bob and Maria Thompson. A gigantic three-foot birthday card was placed at the entrance, so all those in attendance could sign as they entered the hall. Her great-granddaughters, Cherrish Pryor from Indianapolis, and Isis Jones, on military leave from California, served as ushers, greeting everyone at the door.
Her nephew, Rev. Thomas Wilson, spoke about how much he loved and admired his aunt. He commented on her sharp shooting skills in days gone by and all of the things she loved doing. He then gave the closing prayer, and asked God’s blessings on the meal.
Everyone dined on a delicious meal of ham, baked chicken, Roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, salad, rolls, assorted desserts and iced tea.
Granddaughter Mary Shaw had a beautiful birthday cake made which had “Aunt Mary’s” picture on it.
Aunt Mary turned 100 years old on May 18, 2007. Although she can no longer do many of the things she loves to do, like gardening, fishing, and hunting, she never misses an opportunity to tell you she is a child of God. She can still sing God’s praises. The great singer, Mahalia Jackson, once sang, “I Want to Live the Life I Sing About In My Song.” Well, Aunt Mary really has lived the life she sings about in her song.
A verse from Proverbs 31:30 was printed on the program, and it reads like this: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
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