Mary Alice Scudder stays pretty active. She cooks her own meals, tends her garden and stays busy with a variety of things on a daily basis.
And this Saturday, August 20th, she will turn 100 years old.
Or should we say, 100 years young.
She is so active for her age, she has a copy of her birth certificate on the table next to her chair in her living room, just in case she needs to prove her age to someone. She proudly shares that she mowed her own yard until she was in her upper 80s.
Born on August 20th, 1916 in Carrollton, Kentucky; Mary Alice was the daughter of Melvin Knox and Ollie Sutherland Knox. She was the third of six children; with two older sisters: Clara and Dorothy; and three younger brothers: Willie, Charlie, and Albert Knox.
“All three of them were in World War II,” Mary Alice says of her brothers. “Two of them were wounded, but they got back home.”
Her father farmed, which meant that the whole family farmed. She grew up in some tough times, but says that her family was filled with love.
“I grew up during the Depression, but we always had plenty to eat,” she said. “We all survived. We raised a big garden and everything. We raised tobacco. Put up hay, and raised corn. We had our own chickens and hogs. People did back then, they didn’t go to the store and buy a bunch of stuff, you put up stuff, unless it was flour or sugar or salt. Otherwise we grew everything we had.”
And her earlies memories of growing up?
“I went to common school,” Mary Alice said. “We went to a one room school, where the teacher taught all of us at the same time, from first up to the eighth grade. When I was in the fifth grade, the lady came to the school to give us shots for different diseases. Charlie didn’t get to go to school that day, and I had gone. When I came home, I was vaccinated; and he said, ‘Now you can vaccinate me’.
Mary Alice said that she took a needle, burned it to sanitize it, then took alcohol and rubbed her brother’s arm. After that she made three scratches on his arm in one direction; and then the other way. She finally took some of the medicine from her arm and rubbed in on her brother.
“It took,” she laughed. “When he went to the Army, it was still good. He said not to tell anybody, because he was afraid that they wouldn’t pass him in the service.”
Mary Alice found her way to Switzerland County when she was about five years old when the family moved to her grandfather’s farm near Spring Branch.
She also has seen many changes in life on the family farm.
“I remember when I was a teenager they would take a team of horses and take big scoop shovels and clean the mud out of your pond,” she said. “Everything revolved around teams of horses. We had to milk by hand. My dad, he would plow tobacco on the hillside, and I’d ride the horse.”
She went to elementary school at the Spring Branch schoolhouse before heading on to Vevay High School; and that’s where she met Delmer Scudder, the man who would become her husband, through his sisters.
“When I was going to high school, his two sisters were in the same grade I was, and we were good friends,” she said. “That’s how we got connected.”
The couple was married on February 8th, 1936.
“We were going to get married in Kentucky, but they told us that we couldn’t with an Indiana license then,” she smiled. “So we got on the ferry boat, and that’s where we were married – on the ferry boat on the water.”
The young couple farmed out on Big Doe Run, where they had an 80 acre farm.
The couple enjoyed 47 years of marriage until Delmer passed away in March of 1983. The last 13 years of his life he battled cancer, but Mary Alice said that throughout his physical struggles, he never lost his sense of humor.
“He was just 68 years old,” she said.
The couple had one daughter, Margaret Rowlett, who now lives near Moorefield with her husband, Gary. Mary Alice’s granddaughter, Sherry, lives in West Virginia.
“Margaret comes down here every Friday and gets my groceries,” Mary Alice said. “She pays for a lady to come and do my cleaning, she won’t let me pay for it. My granddaughter, she’s awful good to me. She comes in every Christmas and takes me shopping. She’s always sending me things.”
Does it seem like it’s been 100 years?
“In a way,” Mary Alice says. “For me, I can’t believe I’m 100. I’ve still got all my teeth except three that I had pulled, and I never had a toothache. I guess I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, and I thank the Good Lord everyday when I pray for Him letting me live so long, because He’s the only one who can take care of us. We have to trust Him, but a lot of people don’t do that, but I certainly do.”
Mary Alice says that she’s gone to church her entire life; and after she moved down to Vevay in 1987, she went to the Nazarene church, but got to a point where she didn’t get out that much after suffering some dizzy spells.
“But I do my own cooking and do a lot around here,” she says proudly. “I put out tomatoes, stuff like that. I put out beans, but they didn’t amount to nothing. I think it was the weather, because I’ve always had beans.”
Any secrets to her longevity?
“I always liked to work,” Mary Alice said. “I always figured if you work, you’re going to live longer than the people who don’t do nothing. I believe that. You’ve gotta stay active, If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
In honor of Mary Alice’s 100th birthday, family and friends are invited to come to the Jack Sullivan Building of the Switzerland County Senior Citizens Center this Saturday, August 20th, for a celebration. It will be held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.