Grateful accolades for Margie Crockett

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‘Because of Aunt Margie, our roots are strong, loving and without limits’

Last Saturday, 70 family members and friends gathered to celebrate the 96th birthday of my aunt Margie Ree Massey Crockett.
She has always been a role model to me and her other relatives, a blessing to her church and her community, and an inspiration to generations of her home county’s preschoolers.
“This is bigger than a birthday party,” her son Cary Crockett said Saturday. “This is a reunion of family, friends and love!”


The celebration, hosted by her nieces Carolyn Simpson, Frances Harley and me, included lunch, music, prayers and many tributes. There was a proclamation from the city of Lancaster, signed by Mayor Alston DeVenny.
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.
Aunt Margie was the third-youngest of 12 siblings, and the last one still living. They grew up on the family farm in northern Lancaster County’s Steele Hill community.
Through the decades, she wore many hats. She was babysitter to her granddaughters, treating them to a Burger King or KFC snack after picking them up from school. She became “third-shift babysitter” for nephew Chuckie’s kids.
Aunt Margie was a caregiver for so many of us. She drove me to my high school graduation 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 4½ 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.
One of her former students, the Rev. Shontelle Williams, remembers her as an encouraging presence. “Mrs. Crockett was a loving person,” she recalls. “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 that her son Cary earned his bachelor’s degree from Pfeiffer University. She took college classes at Lander College, USC-Lancaster, S.C. State and Winthrop.
Her niece, Eula Shaw, remembers the example she set.
“I always admired Aunt Margie. She represented the dream of pursuing post-secondary education,” Eula says. “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 was 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.
Niece Carolyn Simpson, in her welcome to Saturday’s guests, noted how devotion to God anchored the life we were celebrating.
“Aunt Margie has been truly blessed with a long life with God’s salvation,” she said.
Margie 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 and one great-grandson.
Aunt Margie is a beautiful, warm and giving person. She embodies what it means to age gracefully.
At Saturday’s celebration, her niece Frances Harley cited James Baldwin’s wise words: “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
“Because of Aunt Margie,” Frances said, “through her stories of our family history and the life she has lived, we know from whence we came, and there are no limitations of where we can go. Our roots are strong, loving and without limits.”
To God be the glory!

Guest columnist Betty Massey Cooper, a Lancaster County native, lives in Charlotte.