A Life Lived: ‘Granny Mary’ enjoyed the simple things

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Groucho Marx is credited with the thought: “Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day today and I’m going to be happy in it.”

Mary Alice McQueen Nolen laughed a lot, and it didn’t take much to make her happy. She enjoyed her family, helping others, attending church, having breakfast at Nancy’s every morning with her friends, Leonard and Michael Joe, and telling stories from her childhood.

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Sadly, Mrs. Nolen, 89, died July 26 from injuries suffered when someone entered her home on July 14 and brutally attacked her, one day after she had undergone cataract surgery.

Her granddaughter, Missy, said her mother, Judy, had asked to stay with her that night, but she declined the offer, saying, “No, I don’t need a sitter.”

“She could be feisty at times. When she barked her orders, you’d better do what she said and when you told her you were going to do something, you’d better do it,” said Missy.

But, deep inside Mrs. Nolen was a kind-hearted, humble person, who grew up in Old Butler and had graduated from the Watauga Academy. The older she got, the more stories she spun about her childhood home, which is now buried beneath the waters of Watauga Lake. “She had a lot of Old Butler stories, and she kept those memories alive by sharing them with her children and grandchildren,” Missy said.

Although Mrs. Nolen was 89 years old, she drove herself from her modest home in Hunter to Nancy’s Restaurant at the Coal Chute for breakfast, lunch, and supper every day. “She rarely missed. She met her friends, Leonard and Michael Joe, every morning for breakfast. She was a very giving person, and was always offering to buy breakfast and lunch for someone out of her meager earnings. She enjoyed being with people, talking and laughing with them. She was a good listener as well as conversationalist,” said Missy.

In her earlier years, Mrs. Nolen had lived in Virginia and had worked at the New River Valley Center for Aging. “She went into people’s homes and sat with them, did housework, and took care of them,” explained Missy.

“Granny Mary as we called her was always doing things to help people. I remember she loaned her car to a friend, who was sick, to go to the doctor and when the friend had to go to a couple of doctors and hospitals out-of-town for tests and treatment, Granny Mary not only let her use the car, but filled it with gas and paid the friends’s motel bill if she had to stay overnight. She did this more than once,” Missy shared.

Mrs. Nolen attended Valley Forge Christian Church and rarely missed. Her favorite song was “What A Day That Will Be,” which was sung by Sherry Hicks at her memorial service. “She enjoyed hearing Sherry sing and was always asking her ‘when you going to sing again?’’’ said Missy.

Granny Mary since she retired and moved back to Tennessee enjoyed being with her family and doing things with them. “She especially enjoyed picnics,” said Missy.”

In earlier years, Mrs. Nolen enjoyed doing ceramics and had made several beautiful pieces.

However, her latter years were given to her family and friends and being there for them. “She had six living children, a bunch of grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren,” Missy shared.

“I know that God has a purpose in everything, and that he gives the good times as well as the bad times. My grandmother didn’t deserve to be beaten. No one should be beaten like that. It was a heinous act and I pray everyday they will catch whoever did it. When she passed, it was very peaceful with her family by her bedside,” said Missy.

For Granny Mary, there will be “no more heartaches, no more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye, and all is peace forever more.” That day finally came for her.