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December 29, 2011 / dcwisdom

The Passing of a Super-Centenarian

My grandmother passed peacefully from this life into the arms of Jesus.  Mary Tankursley was a super-centenarian at 110.

Worldwide, only five dozen folks (or so) are older than she.  I once asked her what the secret is to a long life, and she quoted Julia Child:  “Small helpings, no seconds…and pick your grandparents.”  Grandmother was a quiet woman, but when she spoke, her words made points:  “Be active.  Walk, eat wisely, and move more than you sit.  Look for the good things in life.  Be positive.  Go to church.  Stay in touch with those you love.”

I remember her at work.  When I was but a wee girl, I accompanied my mother  to Grandmother’s office where she worked as a secretary and bookkeeper.   Grandmother let me plunk away on her heavy, black typewriter, which kept me busy while she and Mom visited.  Grandmother managed the office until her retirement in 1969, and she started a home-based bookkeeping business to supplement her retirement income.  She faithfully worked in her church, and her former Bible study group is named for her:  The Mary Circle.







Mary Tankursley with her granddaughter, Carol.

Mary liked politics and Bill Clinton, in particular.  She never expounded on her fondness for Clinton; I can only assume that she liked his southern manner, his intellect, and the fact that he was a good-looking democrat from Arkansas.  Never mind that scandal followed him, and he was unfaithful to his wife, but  Grandmother disliked Hilary, anyway.  Grandmother cast her first ballot in 1929 for Democrat Al Smith, and she remained true to her political party.  She cared not for Obama but could not break from familial and personal tradition.  She reluctantly voted for him but later lamented, “I hope he’s a one-term president.”

Grandmother was a fabulous cook and, without fail, prepared my favorite dishes when I visited:  chop suey and egg custard pie.  She always set a proper table with a table-cloth, napkins, pottery or china, utensils in their proper places, and delicious food served in bowls and on platters.  Some of her favorite dishes to serve were deviled eggs, jello molds, half-pears on beds of lettuce with a dollop of Miracle Whip and grated cheese atop, roast beef sliced paper-thin, creamed potatoes, sweet tea, and southern pecan pie.   When she broke housekeeping, I was fortunate to receive her 1937 copy of My New Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book with her handwritten notes and her personal recipe box.  Mary mixed a mean batch of lemon curd!

One summer while visiting, she mentioned that she had ants around her stove.  Since my stove was electric, I thought not one ill thought about spraying ant poison around her stove.  Grandmother had a natural gas stove…(You know where this is going.)  In retrospect, all I can do is thank God I wasn’t the cause for numerous neighborhood funerals that week.  A mini-explosion with a long flame shot out behind the stove, but nothing caught fire, amazingly.  However, I called the gas company to be on the safe side.  The representative said to evacuate the house, but Grandmother refused to move from the front porch.  When the gas company truck arrived promptly, the man glared sternly at us sitting in the porch chairs and exclaimed, “We TOLD you to evacuate the house!”  Grandmother replied, “We DID, young man!”  We noticed there was no traffic on the streets (she lived on a corner), and apparently the police rerouted traffic.  Grandmother said, “Well, I guess this was a bigger deal than we thought.”

Her favorite television programs were Lawrence Welk, Red Skelton, Julia Child, Andy Griffith, The Beverly Hillbillies, Sanford and Son, and the Texas Rangers, to name a few.  Grandmother loved to read newspapers and Life Magazine, and when she could no longer see to read, she enjoyed someone reading to her.  In the last few years, my aunt read aloud dozens of books to her mother.   Mary’s favorite Texas Ranger was former catcher Jim Sundburg who called her on her 100th birthday.   Nolan Ryan was another favorite, especially after he purchased the Rangers’ organization.  Last spring, the local Denton paper published a snap picture of Grandmother (wearing her Texas Rangers’ robe with her hand in the claw position) as being the oldest-known Texas Rangers’ fan.

Mary was a cancer survivor of thirty-five years, an advocate of higher education, a life-long and proud Methodist, and a friend to all ages.  What a heritage and legacy!  Mary recently applied to the Gerontologist Research Group as a super-centenarian.  How I wish she had lived to reach the Number One spot on the list!

Peace and love.  Comfort and joy.



  1. Mary / Dec 31 2011 4:29 AM

    I’m sure she leaves a huge hole in your heart. This is a wonderful obit.

  2. Ron Duvall / Dec 30 2011 8:28 AM

    A great tribute to great lady. She was so much fun to be around and her passing leaves another void on Greenwood. Peggy and I are thinking of you today.

  3. LP / Dec 29 2011 11:17 PM

    Beautiful. What a wonderful heritage.

  4. Lois / Dec 29 2011 7:58 PM

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. She was loved by you that’s for sure! Sorry for your loss!

  5. Deborah Pucci / Dec 29 2011 2:32 PM

    I am so sorry to hear about her passing. I love the wise words that she spoke. I need to practice them. ((HUGS))

  6. debsladybugtexas / Dec 29 2011 1:41 PM

    so sorry to hear about her passing…I was just telling my family about her after post the other day…she did live a long life…and sounds like a life full of love and hard work….

  7. Vickie / Dec 29 2011 9:22 AM

    Wow, your grandmother was a Pip! I’d love to have met this regal lady. Yep, she was a true Southern woman. I know you’ll miss her, but I ‘ll bet she’s got a special place in heaven and is still setting a proper place at the table! Hugs!

  8. tanna / Dec 29 2011 6:44 AM

    What a wonderful heritage you have, Debbie. I am so sorry for your loss, but you know there is dancing in heaven. You have written a beautiful, beautiful tribute to a magnificent soul. blessings ~ tanna

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