Sunday, May 11, 2014

Granny's Pantry # 17-- Martha Virginia Cole Johnson


Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said, “Man has his will—but woman has her way.” That would be  Martha Virginia Cole Johnson. Granny Cole’s baby daughter was definitely cut out of the same piece of cloth as her mother: they were/are both strong willed and determined Southern women.  
Martha Virginia was so little at birth that they called her “Biddy” aka “baby chicken.” It stuck as “Bid,” and that’s what  Granny Cole and her sister, Ruthie, always called her.  

 Her brother, Brooks, called her “Marthee” or “Myrt”. 

Martha Virginia grew up on the farm at High Rock. I’m not saying…but I suspect…that she was a tad bit spoiled by her mother and father. 

However it happened, she is an independent spirit and doesn’t like to be told what to do (unless she asked for advice…which didn’t happen much). She went to school in Denton, North Carolina, population back then = not many. After high school, she  attended Pfeiffer College and Woman’s College (now UNC-Greensboro) , where she majored in home economics and romance (from what we hear).

She moved to Draper, North Carolina (now part of Eden), to teach school. 
As the story goes, one day she was walking down the street when a dashing young preacher, in town to conduct a revival, was standing on the stairs of the boarding where she lived and he was staying temporarily.   
He, whose name was Jimmie Johnson and who was eleven years her senior, saw her coming. He said she was engaged to someone else at the time. He said that as soon as he saw her, he knew she was “The One,” and dropped his comb down in front of her to catch her attention. She picked it up and came up to meet him. The next time he saw her, he said, she was not wearing her diamond ring. She said she wasn't engaged at the time and  she had already noticed him driving by in the tiny Southern  town and liked the way he looked. Who knows what the real story is. Jimmie soon left the area, leaving her to wonder if she would see him again. He phoned her, however, and proposed.  They were married three months later-- December of 1944.      

Martha Virginia stopped teaching that next summer to become a full time wife. She and Jimmie made their home with her parents at High Rock where they lived until after their first child, Jenny Wren, was born. Jimmie’s travels as an evangelist took him to Raleigh, NC, and he conducted a revival in a tobacco warehouse in nearby Fuquay Springs. 

They built a house there about 1950, and their second child, Jane Ruth, was born. A son, James Thomas, Jr., would follow eight years later.  

Her children say that Martha Virginia was always busy. A full time housewife and mother for many years, she also worked for a local architecture firm and a junior high school math teacher. The family often traveled with Jimmie to his preaching engagements at camps and in tent meetings in the summer time. She attended church regularly and actively in her early married life, and served as head of the Woman’s Missionary Union, taught women’s study courses, and helped start a church day care that is still going strong thirty years later.

Martha Virginia is known for being a wonderful hostess and cook. She could sew, quilt, braid rugs, and decorate. She and Jimmie collected many unique and interesting antiques and artifacts in their travels together.  

In the 1980’s, Martha Virginia and Jimmie sold their home in (now) Fuquay-Varina to move back to High Rock where they remodeled a house a mile from her home place. She and her husband could now enjoy a more rural setting in which to garden and enjoy a quieter time together. The solitude was short lived as she soon shared caretaker duties for her mother, and then her husband, and later her sister. 

Martha Virginia is a very private person. As time passes, she has become more so. 

She spends her days reading or helping her son care for her sister. She now pursues her faith in a very private way, no longer going out to church. At family gatherings, where she would once spend hours in the kitchen before and after the event, she is content to sit and let the younger women handle the festivities.

Still beautiful, Martha Virginia feels the weight of passing time. She once told me, “I didn’t mind being sixty: I didn’t mind being seventy, but I don’t want to be eighty.” She will be ninety- one at her next birthday.

She loves her husband of almost 60 years and keeps his pictures as a young man in her bedroom. She loves her three children, one of whom is with her husband in Heaven. She loves her six grandchildren and her seven great grandchildren.
She loves the truth of Proverbs 3: 5-6:

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

                                 Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.




            

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