It is an honor and a privilege to highlight the life of my aunt, Margie Ree Crockett, on her 99th birthday.
She has always been a role model to me and her other nieces and nephews, a blessing to her church and community, and an inspiration to the preschoolers she taught.
“This is a very significant day,” said her son, Cary Crockett. “Celebrating Mama’s 99th birthday is a tremendous milestone! I am blessed to see and pray with her every day.”
Aunt Margie is the matriarch of the Massey family. She was born Aug. 7, 1923, to Henry A. Massey and Daisy Huey Massey. Her mom lived to be 100 years old.
Margie is the third-youngest of 12 siblings, and the only one still living.
They grew up on the family farm in the Steele Hill area of northern Lancaster County.
Through the decades, she has worn many hats. She was babysitter to her granddaughters, treating them to a Burger King or KFC snack after picking them up from school.
She also became “third-shift babysitter” for her nephew Chuckie’s children.
Aunt Margie has been a caregiver for so many of us. She drove me to my Barr Street High School graduation in 1966 when my father needed to attend my brother’s graduation at Johnson C. Smith University.
She grew up on a farm in the Roaring ’20s, when sharecropping, segregation and limited opportunities existed.
At an early age, she recognized the importance of education. She remembers walking 4.5 miles (one way) to Steele Hill School through seventh grade.
There were no day care centers or Head Start programs, and black children could not ride school buses.
In 1967, when her two sons were old enough to attend public school, Aunt Margie began working at the Flat Creek Head Start program. The job drew on her interest in education and her love for children.
A former student, the Rev. Shontelle Williams, remembers her as an encouraging presence. “Mrs. Crockett was a loving person,” she recalled. “She was patient and was always smiling.”
Head Start opened many doors for Aunt Margie. She attended night school and earned her high school diploma the same year her son, Cary, earned his bachelor’s degree from Pfeiffer University.
She took college classes at Lander, USC Lancaster, S.C. State and Winthrop.
Her niece, Eula Shaw, remembers the example she set.
“I’ve always admired Aunt Margie. She represented the dream of pursuing post-secondary education,” Eula said.
“She was always dressed professionally, with her books and papers, and to hear her talk about her pupils inspired me to become an English teacher.”
Another big impression she left on us all over the years is her faith in God.
She has always been devoted to the church and Christian living. She grew up in Jackson Grove Presbyterian Church — now Jackson Grove Independent — where she taught Sunday school and sang in the choir.
After she married the love of her life, Cary Isaac Crockett, she continued to do God’s work at Mount Tabor AME Zion Church, where she is still a member and has received many awards and recognitions.
She and Uncle Cary, who died in 2005, raised two wonderful sons, Cary Allen and Thomas Maurice (deceased), who grew up like brothers to my sisters and me. She has two granddaughters, Carla and Crystal, and one great-grandson, Khylan.
Aunt Margie still lives at home, with professional caregivers in the daytime and spending her nights at son Cary’s house.
She is a beautiful, warm and giving person. She embodies what it means to age gracefully.
Her niece Frances Harley cited James Baldwin’s wise words at her 96th birthday party in 2019: “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
“Because of Aunt Margie, through her stories and pictures of our family history and the life she has lived, we know from whence we came,” Frances said, “and there are no limitations of where we can go.
“Our roots are strong, loving and without limits.”
Thank you, Aunt Margie.
To God be the glory!
Lancaster County native Betty Massey Cooper lives in Charlotte.