She’s 102 years old and she still walks with a little spring in her step, although she will tell you that she is not as fast as she used to be.
Her name is Mary C. Thompson, and she just celebrated her 102nd birthday this week, born Aug. 29, 1914 to Cora and June Clark. Her son, Luther Thompson, says they quietly celebrated at his brother’s house in Shreveport with one of her favorite meals: fried chicken.
Mary Thompson spent most of her life teaching young children in the Webster Parish education system, teaching mostly first grade students, but at one time teaching first through third grade at Long Spring School, a little two-room school with a cafeteria in the middle. The school used to stand where Town and Country Health and Rehab sits now.
She is a 1933 graduate of Webster High School, and graduated from what was then Grambling College with a teaching degree.
She had been an educator since the 1920s.
“She worked for a family in Minden in the kitchen,” he said. “When she applied for a teaching job, the superintendent of education asked her boss if he would allow her to teach. Fortunately, she had a boss that cared, and he asked her if she would stay with him if he paid her what she would have made teaching.”
She told him she wanted to teach, and her boss let her go with his blessing, Luther Thompson says of his mother.
“So, she began teaching, and would go to Grambling in the summer to get her degree,” he said.
Most of the people in the area were from farm families, he says, and at the time, families would gather together and cut and chop wood for the wood-burning stove that kept the whole school warm during the winter months.
“At that time, the guys would go to school part time and then go to work,” he said.
She retired in the late 1960s, and ran for the Webster Parish School Board in the early 1970s. Although she did not win the election, she went on to spend much of her time as the head of Head Start, an early childhood education program. She took care of Minden’s young ones through Head Start until her husband, Theo Thompson became ill. At that time, she stayed home to take care of him.
She has been a member of St. Rest Baptist Church for nearly 70 years, and was even on the search committee that brought in the Rev. B.J. Martin’s predecessor, his father, the Rev. B.F. Martin.
Mary Thompson has seen many life-changing moments in the last century, from the Depression to integration, but one thing remains the same – the sense of community she and her family feel in Minden.
Her mother passed away when she was just five years old. Her aunt and uncle, Lizzie and Claiborne Anderson, in the house next door to where she currently lives, raised Mary Thompson.
She now suffers from dementia and other ailments, but Luther Thompson says his mother still helps around the house, taking care of household chores and a little bit of cooking. She stays as active as her health will allow her.
Luther Thompson takes care of his mom full time now.