By Marilyn T. VentressOne hundred years ago, one thousand six hundred miles away, Mary Lou Casey was born, the sixth child of thirteen, born to Will and Lizzie Casey. The young Casey began her life on a Sharecroppers farm in Flat Lake, Louisiana, a few miles outside of New Orleans. At the age of ten, she worked on another sharecroppers farm in Minden, Louisiana, with her siblings. Four months out of the year she went to school while the other eight months she worked in the fields. Her chore was to clear "new ground" removing bushes and trees to plant cotton and corn. When the cotton was ready to be picked she worked with her brothers and sisters but Mary did not last long picking, she says while her brothers picked and sacked the cotton she waited until the sack was full, then fluffed it up to sleep on. After being caught and whipped for sleeping on the job, her mother decided she would be better off in the house working and cooking for her sisters and brothers.
Mary cleaned the house, nursed the babies and cooked for her siblings. She had a little red wagon and when night fell she would put her little brother James and sister Bessie in the wagon, load it with dinner and by the light of the lantern that hung around the neck of the mules she headed barefooted into the fields. This was no easy task because she had to cross a creek, in order to do that she took her baby sister and brother out, carried them across the creek and came back carried the wagon and then re-loaded the children and moved onward into the long rows of cotton until she reached her family that was still picking cotton into the night. When all the work was done they slept on hay mattresses while her mother and neighbor women sewed quilts to sell.
At seventeen, she left the farm and moved to Shreveport, there she worked at the Washington Union hotel as a maid. There she met her future husband James Poindexter.
One day, while riding a bus home from the hotel, she had to give up her seat to a white woman and as she moved the bus turned and she fell into this woman. The woman called her a plethora of bad names and Mary hit her a few times and landed in jail for two nights. When she got out of jail she was received at home by a box of dead roses, a sign back then that "you will die." Mary packed her bags and joined her sister Bea in California. Her husband soon followed her to Los Angeles. She swore never to return to the south. In California she prospered, first working serving parties.
Then, she landed a job for one Dr. Howard where she worked thirty-two years. Mary and her husband bought their first house in 1953 where she lived until 2006. After her husband died in 1967 Mary continue to work and raise her son, James Jr. After she had a serious accident and could no longer work for Dr. Howard she took care of children well into her 80's.
Today MomMae, as she is affectionately called by her 221 nieces, nephews, great and grand, still lives alone and cooks, takes care of herself and attends Triumph church every Sunday. She is best known for her baking which is her hobby: baking her signature German Chocolate Cake, Cheese Cake, Jello Mold and she bakes up to 100 fruit cakes each Christmas.
Mary said her proudest moment was when she voted for the first Black president, Barack Obama in 2008. Even though her parents never had the right to vote, she exercised her right that she had fought for and helped to put President Obama into the White House.
I asked MomMae what was the key to her long life, her answer was simple," living right, and eating right."