Mary Farrow, 86, is Manila's 2008 Christmas Angel. She said she counts her blessings every day and gives the Good Lord thanks every morning.
Mrs. Farrow was born on July 1, 1922, the third of six children (five girls and one boy) born to John E. and Florence Sarter. She was raised in Harrisburg. Her dad had a dry goods store in Harrisburg and a farm. The family had two homes, one in town and one in the country.
The Sarter family lived in town in the winter and in the country in the summer. Mrs. Farrow doesn't remember much about the dry good store her father owned as it burned when she was very young. She does cherish the picture she has of her dad standing out in front of the store with a big sign, "Sarter Dry Goods and Groceries," on the front of the building.
"We raised cows and turkeys and had pigs and chickens. In those days, no one had much money, but we always had plenty to eat and what we needed."
She can remember Christmas time as a special time during her growing up years.
"We would go out and cut a tree," she said. "Usually we would pick a pine tree. We made paper chains, picked red berries and made strands of popcorn to decorate it. Dad always raised popcorn so we had plenty to decorate with."
Mrs. Farrow said she became the tomboy of the family and enjoyed "running around" with her Dad.
"I was probably only four years old when he would put me in the old cattle truck and we would go to Memphis to the stockyards," she remembers. "I remember Dad returning from a trip to Louisiana. He had visited a fair and he told us some day in our lives we would be able to push a button to cook instead of having to build a fire in the stove and we would be able to see movies right in our living rooms. Sometimes when I go to the kitchen or turn on the television, I remember his words."
"My parents were hard workers and they taught us the importance of working," she said. "We picked peas and put them in a barrel to buy our Easter clothes and we raised turkeys to sell for our Christmas items. Once my Dad bought all of us girls a pair of overalls to work in. My mother had a fit and said he wasn't putting her girls in those boy clothes. She took the overalls and embroidered flowers on them before she would let us wear them."
Mrs. Farrow's dad died when she was 14 years old.
"My mother was left with five children to raise," she said. "She was an inspiration to all of us. Many nights I would go to sleep hearing her at the pedal sewing machine making our clothes. She took care of the cattle, sold milk, butter, and eggs. She was a mom and dad to us. I can remember when she got the buckets to go to the barn she would be singing "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder," or "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand." She taught us if you want something, get up and go to work for it. Don't sit and expect it to be given to you."
Mary married Harlion Farrow in 1939. She was 17 and he was 24.
"Our families had known each other in Harrisburg," she said. "The Farrows left the Harrisburg area and moved to Mississippi County. One day Harlion had brought his Grandmother to Harrisburg to pay her taxes and we ran into each other. Several of us all went to the movies. He told me he was coming back in two weeks and asked me to marry him. I said yes."
The rest is history. Mr. Farrow came back in two weeks and they were married.
"We went to the court house and got our marriage license," she said. "They were painting the room where marriages were usually performed. A room had been set up at Hollinger's Shoe Shop. So we were married in a shoe shop."
Mr. Farrow always told everyone he waited for her to grow up and then he came back after her.
The couple moved to Mississippi County where they made their home in the Lost Cane/Little River area.
"We spent our honeymoon in the cotton patch," she said.
The Farrows have five children, Clara Gilbert of Steele, Mo.; Billy Farrow of Manila; Bobby Farrow who died in an auto accident in 1974; Brenda Hall of Palm Bay, Fla.; and Cheechee Quick who died in September.
She has 10 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Farrow said she never minded working and worked in the fields while she was raising her children.
Mrs. Farrow worked seven years at the shoe factory and 21 years at American Greetings Corp. She retired in 1989.
Mr. and Mrs. Farrow left the country and lived in Osceola for 15 years.
"We went to buy a car, got to talking to the car salesman about buying a house and it so happened he had one," she said.
They sold their house in Osceola and moved to Manila in the late 1970s.
Mrs. Farrow said she always enjoyed Christmas time when her children were young.
When they grew up and started having families of their own, they would all come home for Christmas Eve.
"On Christmas Day we would go from house to house seeing what the grandchildren got from Santa and then as long as my mother was living, we would make the rounds and then go to her house on Christmas Day," she said.
Mrs. Farrow said she learned to sew by patching her husband's overalls.
"We patched when we could," she said.
She followed in her mother's footsteps and taught herself to sew, making clothes for her daughters and herself. She also enjoyed piecing quilt tops.
She still enjoys making quilt tops but now has them quilted. One of the family favorites is a cotton boll quilt and matching pillows she made.
After her daughter died, Mrs. Farrow's granddaughter brought some of her fleece jackets to Mrs. Farrow who is turning them into Christmas pillows as keepsakes for her great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Farrow will be the first to admit life is not always easy. Like so many others, Mrs. Farrow has had to give up people she loved. Mr. Farrow died Feb. 20, 2001. It has been very hard losing two of her children.
She said she tries to depend on the Lord and stay busy.
"We can't give up and we can't give in," she said. "I have had an interesting life, nothing glamorous but a good life."
She looks forward to the "cousin reunion" held every year. Her oldest cousin, Ellis Emery, started the reunion 20 years ago. She said it is good for families to keep in touch with each other.