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Great State: Happy Birthday Mary

SHIDLER, OKLAHOMA — The card on the end table contains one of a precious few birthday wishes for Mary Roach. But she doesn’t mind. July 24th, 2012 marks her 104th. After so many birthdays she didn’t want anyone making a fuss. “It’s just been a regular thing to me,” she says. “I didn’t think anything about it. It’s just another birthday like I’ve always had from day one.”

Born in 1908, Mary was the middle girl of five. Here father was always chasing a new job. Mary says she chased trouble the same restless way. She and another brave sister used to steal dad’s car when he was at work. She recalls, “We would go and ride around in it, but he could always tell.”

She left home at age 17, worked a few jobs of her own, then moved to California with her older sister. Mary was boxing-up bacon for the Swift Company when an old friend from Oklahoma paid a visit. Melvin took Mary to a dance, and, not long after, on another date for what turned out to be a surprise wedding. “Of course I just thought we were going to eat somewhere. Then he’d take me home,” says Roach. “But he took me to a courthouse and got a license.”

“Did you have anything to say about this?” asks a visitor. “I didn’t know what he was doing,” she responds.

Mary never did stop working. She and Melvin moved to Arizona for his health. They didn’t raise a house full of Roaches, just one daughter. But that daughter had 5 little ones of her own. “We got along all right,” says Mary of her long life. “We didn’t get a divorce. We didn’t fight and kill each other.”

Melvin gone, the wind blew her to his family’s ranch south of Shidler. She took care of her father-in-law until he passed away too. After that Mary worked at the local chamber. She stayed active and independent. Roach has trouble seeing many of her old pictures but a long delayed high school diploma is something she clearly recognizes.

Other members of the Shidler Class of 2012 will likely leave this place to pursue a future. The last of the Roaches is comfortable right here on the prairie, watching the world go by one day at a time, birthday or not.


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