90th birthday

In spite of being quarantined away from family and friends, long time Kernersville resident Mary Rose Brown Vanhoy was able to celebrate her 90th birthday in style from a distance on Friday, April 24.
To celebrate her birthday, Mary Rose’s family surprised her with Card My Yard that read, Happy 90th Birthday. And they surpassed their goal of getting 90 birthday cards sent to her. Also, no birthday would be complete without birthday cake, so they purchased a cake for Mary Rose as well as an additional 100 cupcakes for the staff of the assisted living center where she currently lives.
Rachel Vanhoy, Mary Rose’s daughter-in-law, explained that they received about 145 birthday cards and were able to sing Happy Birthday to Mary Rose over the phone once the assisted living center staff surprised her with the birthday cake.
“Our goal was that we would get 90 birthday cards for her and we ended up getting 145 cards. Her church and family, everyone, did a great job coming together to send her cards,” Rachel said. “She was shocked when we showed up (outside) because she thought all she would get was the (Card My Yard) signs.”
“I was shocked and so happy,” Mary Rose replied.
Mary Rose was born on April 24, 1930 in Oak Ridge and moved to Kernersville when she was seven years old. She noted that she had one younger sister, Gayleene Brown Campbell, and a single mother who worked at Adams-Millis; however, her mother died when Mary Rose was 13 and she and her sister had to move in with their grandparents.
Mary Rose said she has worked all of her life, often helping with tobacco on farms in the area when she was younger.
“I’ve always worked,” she said.
When she wasn’t working, Mary Rose said they would have lawn parties on Saturdays.
“The young people got together at somebody’s house and we would be outside. Back then, we didn’t have any money much, so we just made do with what we had,” she said.
Mary Rose also recalled spending time at Pinnix Drug Store, where they would sit in a little booth enjoying a fountain drink and watching the traffic go by. It was at Pinnix Drug Store that Mary Rose saw the first TV.
“We also had the Justice Theatre and got to go to movies there,” she said.
Mary Rose also recalled Musten & Crutchfield, P&N dime store that was located where Richard Hedgecock Framing Studio is today, as well as Spiros, a little café across the street from P&N where they could get a hot dog for a nickel.
“And we always went to the Fourth of July Parade. We didn’t have a car, so we had to walk up there,” she shared.
Because they didn’t have a lot of money, Mary Rose said they made their own clothes.
“Flour came in sacks with flowers on them and after we emptied them, my grandma made dresses out of them,” she said. “I never had a store-bought dress until I started working.”
Mary Rose recalled growing up with a radio in the home as they didn’t have TVs at the time. She recalled listening to shows such as “Amos and Andy.” She also remembered having an ice box before refrigerators came out.
“We’d buy a chunk of ice and put it in an ice box and it would last for several days,” she said, adding that they also had a small garden and canned their own food.
From a young age, Mary Rose attended First Baptist Church, which she said originally was on Main Street, though now it is on Oakhurst Street. Over the years, Mary Rose has continued to attend the church and is one of the oldest members.
“There are two or three of us,” she said, adding that she has been very involved with the church throughout her life. “I was involved with the senior citizens when I retired and my Sunday school class and about everything they had, except I couldn’t sing in the choir.”
Mary Rose attended Kernersville School, graduating in 1948 with only 22 in her class.
“The last reunion we had was our 50th reunion,” she said.
After graduating high school, Mary Rose went straight to work for Sears for 41 years, until she retired. She also worked for five years at Susie’s Diner, where Sixty-Six Diner is now located.
She also worked for three years at Musten & Crutchfield after she retired.
During her career, Mary Rose was named the American Business Woman’s Association Woman of the Year in 1975.
After she retired, Mary Rose said she enjoyed spending time working in her yard and exercising at the Senior Center.
While she spent many years working, Mary Rose did have the chance to travel with friends, family and her church. She shared that she has been to Alaska and all down the Pacific Coast.
“After I got a car, I used to go to the beach a lot,” she said.
Mary Rose mentioned that she had a close-knit family, who always made a point to get together during the holidays and hold their annual Brown family reunions with nearly 100 people at each gathering, including her son, Steve, daughter-in-law, Rachel and her one grandchild, Madison.
Reflecting on her 90 years, Mary Rose noted some historical events that she remembers well, including WWII and the Pearl Harbor attack.
“It was scary. I had an uncle in the service and they were so glad to get home,” she said. “I also remember when man went to the moon. I thought that was really interesting. And, I remember when President Kennedy died. I thought that was really sad.”
Some personal memories Mary Rose mentioned that meant a lot to her included having her own home, which she still owns, and being able to do yard work, cut the grass and tend to her flowers. Other memories include the day she retired and spending time with her son. She noted that she enjoyed attending his Boy Scout activities, Little League baseball games and sporting events when he played at East Forsyth High School.
When asked what she thinks has contributed to her long life, Mary Rose said, “I think eating right, working out and having a strong faith.”

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