On Aug. 30, 1928, Mary Amelia Massey was born in a very small, rural town in West Virginia. She weighed only 1½ pounds and lived her life in a homemade incubator until she was big enough to make it on her own strength.
She grew up in a one-room house and was the youngest of seven girls. Her father, Robert Massey, died when she was only 14 years of age. Mary finished high school and attended Marshall University to study home economics. She left Huntington after a few semesters to pursue a modeling career in New York City.
To help pay the bills, she worked as a hat and coat check girl at the famous Stork Club. The Manhattan nightclub was one of the most prestigious clubs in the world during its existence from 1929 to 1965. A symbol of café society, the wealthy elite, including movie stars, celebrities, showgirls and aristocrats all mixed in the VIP Cub Room of the club.
The club was established by Sherman Billingsley, a former bootlegger from Enid, Okla. From 1934 until it closed in 1965, it was at 3 East 53rd Street, just east of Fifth Avenue. Billingsley was known for his lavish gifts, which brought a steady stream of celebrities to the club and also ensured that those interested in the famous would have a reason to visit.
Billingsley originally built the well-known VIP Cub Room as a private place within the club where he could play cards with friends; and where Walter Winchell wrote his columns and broadcast his radio programs from Table 50.
Mary recalls vividly her time with the many celebrities who walked through the doors of the club.
But Mary had a higher calling and returned to Huntington to help her mom run a boarding house. It was during this time that Mary would meet the love of her life. They married and a few years later had a baby girl named Mary Melissa. Five years later they moved to Pennsylvania and in 1960 they had a son. Mary Melissa would tell all the neighbors, "I have a baby sister but they call him Richard".
Mary was always there for her family and friends. She reached out to anyone in need and was also very involved in her community. She became the president of the local Garden Club and would for years have winning entries in the various flower shows held locally and abroad. Mary loved to sing, dance and was a collector of antiques. After the children were grown she went back to work selling high-fashion dresses and gowns.
Mary and her husband moved to Florida in 1980 where she would make jewelry from local shells and sell her creations on Clearwater Beach. In later years she joined a sailing club and learned how to navigate the waters in a sunfish sailboat. Her nickname was "Alligator Mary."
Mary also loved to travel and attended the Chelsea Flower Show in London. She later earned her badge as a flower show judge. In 2013 she celebrated 50 years of Garden Club membership.
Mary now resides in Richmond Hill where she maintains an active schedule of daily devotions, crafts and bocce ball. She’s also an avid reader, Rummikub player and word search aficionado. And yes, Mary’s having a birthday this month.
Happy birthday, Mom! Thank you for all your love and support throughout the years.
Contact DeLong at 912-531-7867 or email him at: SeniorMomentsWithRich@gmail.com