A Pat On The Back!


by Patsy Nobles Jones

Living on earth for 37,079 days sounds like a long time, but if you ask a person reaching the age of 101 years, six months and seven days how long is life, the reply is, “Life is short.” It does not matter if it is 5,297 weeks or 1,218 months. She was born on a Wednesday, and she died on Wednesday.
At her 2020 last birthday party at Catfish Cabin, I told her I was planning a “Big Birthday Party” when she reached age 102. I just did not want her to leave earth, so I occupied her mind. She was needed and loved. She had a great memory to help all of us get it straight in our heads. Murdell knew all my family going back to my great-grandparents on both sides! She was my “ANCESTRAL FAMILY TREE.” She went to Clark’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church in early years and later joined Unity. I carried her once to Unity – so many hugs. She was loved, but she loved them more!
Shortly after this 2020 party, the pandemic hit like one she heard about in 1918. It changed our lives. Murdell suffered greatly, not being able to see her “baby.” I could not get in to visit her, but I went around to her room and stood outside; we visited by phone, so that helped. I called her often. She was never ready to hang up either. It hurt so much to think about the last surprise I bought her (elephant sheets). I did not know it at the time, but she was carried to the hospital the day before; I never saw her again. My loss is great — my tie to the past through her eyes and memories are gone. I loved her more!
Murdell Brewer McCall Barker and her sister, Clyde Brewer (Jack) Butler (10-9-1920/5-4-2018) were two girls to keep Albert Manley Brewer (3-7-1886/12-18-1969) and Mary Alice Melton Brewer (11-11-1890/9-5-1979) entertained. These parents instilled good work ethics. She could make a fire, wash, iron and sew for her kids and work in the veggie garden and fields to can for winter.
Murdell Barker attended Glendale School. Her close friend Robert Seeley was born March 15, 1919. They talked often on the phone in Chattanooga.
Murdell got a public job to help support family after she lost her first love, Marvin Virgil McCall (11-8-1918/7-26-1943). She got a job at Salant and Salant as supervising floor lady. She often walked several miles to catch a ride to work. She learned to trim her daddy, granddaddy, and daddy-in-law’s hair and beard. They trusted her to shave them when they could not. Murdell was a trusted young child and grown woman! She later owned Murdell’s Antique Beauty Shop 27 years at Jacks Creek. She could take a sow’s ear and turn it into a silk purse with her talent – oink-oink! Her second husband, James Travis Barker (11-28-1920/8-27-1995), shampooed customers’ hair. They made a good working couple. Murdell praised Travis’s family to me. Wilma B. Frye was a hard worker like Murdell. They admired each other.
Murdell was multi-talented. She enjoyed Eastern Star, VFW Auxiliary, JC Community Club and JC Home Demonstration Club, where she was nominated as president. She won many top ribbons for sewing, especially heirloom sewing. Murdell could strip an antique trunk, paper it, paint and stain furniture and make hook rugs (German shepherd for Joel). She loved making Joel’s 1957 high school graduation jacket and a green dress with cape for Camille when she was carrying her baby. A part of Murdell died when she lost her red-flaming haired daughter (4-2-37/12-7-81).
Murdell even made her own centennial outfit and her husband’s suit in 1960. Her talents kept stretching. She was a poet (The Tree) and artist. Her paintings were on walls at First State Bank in her son’s office. She painted a picture for her brother-in-law, Jack Butler, of his childhood home. It brought tears to his eyes. There is no place like home; she brought it back to life. She loved him more.
Her favorite dog was Chin, a pug. She had a small photo album of her pets. She would get really emotional seeing them and sharing stories. She raised a pet pig that followed her. Her cats were large and fluffy, but the highway was too close. Chin lived in a clean and well-organized home.
Her den shelves were filled with her painted ceramics. She greatly enjoyed painting Santa figurines carefully chosen for the person’s interest. She surprised me with a Christmas figurine, too. She never ran out of ideas for family Christmas gifts for 18. One Christmas she showed aprons she made and had one for me with paw prints! Oh, what a treasure we have to remember her as we cook our Christmas dinners. As long as she was able she would cook meals carefully planning favorites for all. They will not forget chocolate or coconut cream pies and rich boiled custard. Mamaw was loved! She made me pies, too – fried pies! When she moved to assisted-living, she ordered me a birthday caramel custard pie. Oh, how endearing. At assisted-living she did mending for residents free. She loved them more.
Murdell did not have a lazy bone in her body. She would pressure wash her home and paint woodwork, and her lawn was immaculate with crepe myrtle trees, irises, lilies, buttercups and of course that pink flock next to her concrete elephant. She had a special picnic table made out of concrete, but it was inlaid with tiles. Later Joel would mow his mother’s yard. Mother was happy to have “seeing him” time!
Very often she would treat her working son to a surprise lunch. Joel McCall would come by and smell the delicious fried salmon, mashed potatoes and homemade biscuits that melted in their mouths. Later, she did the same for Don and me. Don’t know how many pizza dinners we had at Snappy Tomatoes after her doctor appointments and on to the cloth shop.
Sometimes we would sit in “Murdell’s Work Shop.” This room was lined with windows on two walls. Shelves contained her favorite flower, African violet. Outside those windows were gardenia bushes that smelled super good. She dug me one up and insisted I plant it that day. It still grows near our dining room windows. Looking forward to the scent. I will smile thinking of dear Mrs. Murdell. She did her sewing in her glass window room. She did lots of ceramic painting and even watched a little news there. She was always on the upbeat and knew what was going on in the county or world. She could talk some on most subjects. I was amazed Murdell watched sports, knew players names and where they played on the field and so often personal things about them she learned from listening to the broadcasters, especially about Atlanta Braves.
Antiques were her pride and joy. She especially loved elephant figurine collecting. Is that a sign of a “Republican”? I just know she wore elephant jewelry to the voting booth. She had many antique “heads” vases well dusted. She was a loved “antique” in her own right, but she loved us more.
She is missed and loved by Joel (Janis) McCall; Hal (Denise) Bishop, Jr; Marva (Eric) Sain; Kevin (Juli) Bishop; Mollie (Tim) Forderhase; John (Holly) McCall; Hal Bishops, III; Warren and Camille Bishop; Emily and April Sain; Amanda Stinson; Alexandra and Anna Forderhase; Anniston, Grady and Wiley McCall; Trudy Brewer Calvin; Jeff and Jacky Butler; friends; church family; and Patsy Nobles Jones, a kissin’ cousin.
Happy 102 birthday in heaven on Feb. 19, Murdell. We love you. Listen carefully to her last words, “Love you more.”