Feathers celebrates 100 years

Published 2:04 pm Saturday, August 5, 2017

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

Mary E. Feathers celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday, and what a day of celebration it was with attendees arriving from California, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Texas.

Honoring the wonderful occasion of her milestone, a chorus of relatives, friends, and well-wishers surrounded her with loving kindness and showered her with praise throughout the celebration at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, 319 W. Park Avenue, Orange.

Feathers was closely attended by her sister Cora, 87 years herself and both sisters as sharp as a tack as confirmed by several celebration attendees.

Seated in the place of honor, a smile would warm Feathers face each time her extended hands were taken warmly one after another of people standing in line waiting to have a few moments seated at her side.

The glow of her smile matched perfectly the glint in her eyes as she greeted each person to share sincere, whispered words, and then a picture taken with Feathers surrounded by smiling, laughing, great-grandchildren.

When I had the honor for a moment with Feathers, she left me with these words of wisdom, “It is God’s blessing we have every day.”

Reverend Gibson of St. Paul CME provided the invocation and the celebration was emceed by grandson’s Darell Gray (Army Retired) or his twin brother Danny (Active duty Army).

Great-grandchild Mary Gray read a poem that invoked the line “count blessings instead of birthdays” a sentiment similar to what Feathers left for me to ponder.

Pastor David Bell said he remembers the answer Feathers gave him one Sunday morning after church when he asked her and Cora what he could do to make his preaching better.

Feathers looked at him and said, “Keep kicking high and moving forward,” and those words of encouragement have remained a treasure to Bell ever since.

As other friends and family rose to speak it became clear an abiding theme describing Feathers whether from pastor’s, friends, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, is of an abiding faith in God that kept her spirits buoyant and allowed her loving kindness and humor to shine brightly to others.

Taking in the celebration, I smiled, observing from one conversation to the next, people huddled together, indulging in slices of delicious homemade cake, the entire hall filled with joyous voices sharing special memories of their grandmother, loved-one, and friend.

“She always showed love. That’s what it’s all about – Showing love,” said Associate Pastor Willie Celestine. “That’s what they did, Ms. Mary and Ms. Cora too, every day.”

Willie Perry delivered meals from Feed My Sheep to Feathers and her sister Cora and echoed Pastor Willie’s description of Feathers consistent good spirit, remarking how she always seems so full of life.

Mary Feathers was born in Louisiana but raised in Orange, in a town and of a time remarkably different from the one it is today.

By the time Feathers was ten, the Sabine River Bridge at the base of Green Avenue opened and connected interstate travel between Texas and Louisiana instead of an hour-long wait for the ferry on either side.

Shortly after Feathers celebrated her 21st birthday, Southeast Texas celebrated the opening of the Rainbow Bridge, the tallest bridge in the state when it opened in 1938, which also caused the last ferry to cease operation and slide into local history.

To put things in perspective, as vitally important as roads and bridges are connecting our lives, the prevalence and interconnectivity of the Apple iPhone that so many claim an inability to do without, came into our lives 10-years ago, at about the time Ms Feathers was celebrating 90 years.

As a reporter, I am thankful I was part of Ms. Feathers’ celebration because I glimpsed the richness of life in 100 years lived. I can only imagine how tongue tied I would be if asked to pick one special memory or one statement of advice from a scrapbook of life-memories bursting at the seams as the one Feathers has.

And now, upon her celebration on Friday, surrounded by loved ones, she can add many more memories.

Happy Birthday and many more.