Most people living in Northwest Arkansas today are relative newcomers compared to my friend and fellow church member, Vida Marler who was born on a farm with a big orchard near Lowell 100 years ago.
Later her family moved to a farm ¾ mile west of Center Corner School that joined paternal Grandpa’s place where her dad raised corn, beans, & other vegetables. One year her family raised 18 acres of strawberries on land they leased.
“There were ten of us – all girls until the sixth one. Then came a boy. After that there was one girl, and two more boys. I was number three so I helped raise the rest of the younger ones.” All of her brothers, in good health, live independently and attended her 100th birthday party.
Living a delightfully carefree childhood, her response when asked, “What was a typical summer day like?”
“We just played, had a big time. There was a hill from the house, then a drop & another hill up to the barn. Then there was a hill down this way to the well and up to the house on the same hill. We ran up and down the hills, played with a big wagon wheel that was missing the metal strap. We had a smaller wheel that we would try to guide with a stick or a pole. Sometimes it would fall over or it would get away from us. We’d run them things and try to see who could get it to stand up the longest. Birthdays were ‘not a big to do,’ but Momma always made a birthday cake to celebrate even if it wasn’t on the weekend.”
Vida attended the one room Center Corner School 8 years where 1 teacher taught all 8 grades on what is now AR 264. Most of those years they had 2-seat desks and in the early years girls sat together on one side of the room, boys on the other. The first day of school you got there early to pick your partner. At recess they played basketball and other group games.
“On Sundays we went to Zion church and for lunch enjoyed fried chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes & other vegetables. Usually we had friends who would come home with us, eat, spend the day playing, and then go home with their own families after church.”
Revival meetings usually lasted two weeks unless lots of people were being saved and they extended it for a third. Vida was sixteen years old when she was saved during an extended revival in 1932. She and two of her sisters were some of the 34 baptized in Osage Creek at Cave Springs by the younger evangelist as their pastor was “an old man.”
Vida met her husband, “H” (Hershel) Marler who attended Goad Springs School at a party. Most of their “dates” were at parties which families in the community took turns hosting. Activities were eating & playing inside games in cold weather or games outside if it was nice. They walked everywhere they went.
Fifteen months after they met “H” & Vida were married and lived on a farm just west of what is now the Pleasant Grove Walmart. They became members of a growing Pleasant Grove Baptist Church with a lot of other young families.
When Daisy Manufacturing moved to Rogers in 1958, Vida began a twenty-four year career with them. “H” & Vida joined Daisy bowling leagues and bowled weekly. Although her average was 140 she bowled her best league game when she was 86 with a high score of 283. Vida and her Daisy bowling team participated in the National Bowling League Tournaments in various cities around the nation. Daisy Manufacturing never forgot her and honored her on her 100th birthday with a special presentation in which she received a customized engraved air rifle.
“H” & Vida lacked 3 months of being married 50 years when he passed away. Shortly her son, Jerry and his wife, Mary Lou moved onto their property. Having them nearby and staying busy with church activities helped her adjust to being a widow. She still lives in the house she and “H” built forty years ago. All of her homes have been within about a five mile radius.
She drove herself to Temple Baptist Church for Sunday School and worship nearly every Sunday morning until she 97 years old. Since then, Jerry and Mary Lou have been faithful to chauffer her each week. A long time friend, Pat Kennon takes her to prayer meeting at First Baptist on Wednesday afternoons, sometimes to a “song fest,” gospel singing, or other times to hear Johnny Harp preach at Lakeside. “Pat likes to go and I go as much as I want to go.” Vida is also an active member of Liberty Bell Extension Homemakers Club which meets monthly.
An accomplished cook, a few days before her 100th birthday Vida brought a homemade chocolate pie & another dish to the monthly Senior Luncheon at Temple which our guest speaker and his wife raved about. When her grandson and two great grandsons were visiting from Maine a few weeks before her birthday, she made her famous homemade chocolate sheet cake five times in two weeks.
Vida always dresses fashionably and she and Mary Lou “shopped and shopped and shopped for her outfit” for her 100th birthday party. “Then I needed shoes and shopped some more.” She looked beautiful. She often does her own grocery shopping although Jerry drives her now and sometimes she just sends him with her list.
Not only does Vida still enjoy shopping, she is generous, thoughtful, loving and kind. When Mary Lou was always on the road caring for her mother Vida offered to give up her 2 car garage to make an efficiency apartment for this dear widow. This worked great for both of them as they were a mutual blessing to one another for several years.
When asked, “Other than God blessing you, what did you do to live such a long, healthy life?”
She simply answered, “I don’t think I did anything. I’m just as surprised as anyone!”
Vida is a vibrant, active, very young 100 years old woman who is graceful and filled with grace. As one friend spoke about Vida, “I have never heard her say anything bad about anyone.” Every newcomer to Northwest Arkansas can learn some great lessons from Ms. Vida Marler as she is a excellent example of Living Life Well.