The North Carolina Mason

July/August 2017

North Carolina Mason

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MHCO grad turning 100 looks back at life at Oxford campus By Beth Grace Mason Editor When Josephine Poole Pruitt smiles, it lights up the room. Her bright eyes, keen sense of humor and sharp memory belie her 100 years, and make every conversa- tion with her a captivating journey through a life that has not been easy – but has been a blessing. Mrs. Pruitt celebrates her personal centennial Aug. 13, with a big party at the Newton, N.C., retirement community she now calls home, surrounded by friends and family – and memories of a life that had a hard start. Her father was killed by a bolt of lightning when she was only 2. Her mother tried to make a life for herself and her daughter in Cary, N.C., but she contracted tubercu- losis. e illness forced her to move to the southwest, where, doctors said, the dry air would clear her lungs. But she made sure her daughter was cared for before she left, placing little Josephine in the Baby Cottage at the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford. Now 5, Josephine did not under- stand what was happening. "I cried all the way," she said, with a smile. She didn't know that she had landed in the safest of hands. She remembers MHCO as the "most wonderful place in the world," boasting a candy store, a big hospital and swimming pool. She prospered there as she grew, even becoming a bit of an entrepreneur to make some spending money. "I would rake leaves for 3 cents and acorns for 1 cent," she remem- bers. Later, she offered to clean the room of the school's secretary. "She paid me 35 cents to clean. I got 50 cents when I did the bathroom!" With her newfound wealth, she bought candy from time to time and even indulged in what she now recalls as "cheap perfume." She was smart – so smart, she skipped a grade. As she grew, she landed a job in the home's laundry. She would go to school half a day and work half a day. She made money, but didn't emerge unscathed. One of the machines – an old-fash- ioned ringer – spun and broke her arm. at began a medical journey that left her with a right arm that never fully healed. To this day, she cannot straighten it. "My doctor told me years later I could have it fixed," she said. "But I said no. I was used to it by then!" Mrs. Pruitt remembers her daily routine as if it were yesterday. Up early, making the bed followed by five minutes of exercise, breakfast and on to school on campus. All students met in the same classroom at the time. After school was play- time, and sometimes the girls would gather by the piano. On Sundays, everyone would go to church, about 10 minutes away. Well, almost everyone. "One Sunday, I decided I didn't want to go to church, so I hid in the closet," she said, laughing. She never budged from the closet and she defi- nitely did not have fun. "I said, 'I'll never do that again!' I was so scared I was going to get caught!" Peanut butter & molasses She even remembers favorite meals. Sometimes on Sundays, they would have a bag supper, with a peanut butter and molasses sand- wich, apple, cookie and a drink. She loved that sandwich so much, her daughter Rebecca Gammon grew up on it – and so has her grand- daughter, Joanna Gammon. Josephine would remain at the home until she was 18 – graduating at age 17. Her family came to visit at times, and she went to see them. But her mother passed away while Josephine was only 12. e home was such a haven, she said, she never realized it wasn't a "normal" way to grow up. She credits lessons learned there for the woman she would become, marrying and having a family of her own. She learned how to live a good life, one that looked beyond her own needs. In fact, she can still recite – without hesitation – the blessing all MHCO kids have said over meals. And still do. It's a guiding light for her. Always has been and always will be. "Father of all, God, what we have here is of thee. Take our thanks and bless us that we may continue to do thy will." Page 6 The North Carolina Mason July/August 2017 our masonic charities at Work Home was a blessing for this centenarian Nothing is more important than family to Josephine Poole Pruitt, one of the Masonic Home for Children's oldest graduates, who celebrates her 100th birthday this month. She will be joined at a big birthday bash in Newton by her daughter, Rebecca Gammon, left, and granddaughter, Joanna Gammon. Folks from MHCO, Grand Master Gene Cobb and representatives from the NC Masonic Foundation will also be on hand. (Photo by Beth Grace)

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