By DAVID BORAKS
In her 87 years, Mary Archie has lived a lifetime of Davidson history, served the community and become “mom” or “grandma” to generations of children besides her own. Her life and the Ada Jenkins Center on Gamble Street have been intertwined, not just through her recent role as the center’s volunteer snack lady, but decades ago when it was the Davidson Colored School and she was a student under Miss Ada Jenkins herself.
In failing health, she can’t get to the center these days. But on Thursday they pushed her wheelchair into an after-school classroom for an unexpected gathering: By mayoral proclamation it was Mary Archie Day in Davidson. And the Ada Jenkins Center named the classroom in her honor.
Several dozen friends and family were there to pay tribute, to listen to a few stories and hear her sing a hymn or two.
“I have loved you all as much as I know you love me,” Archie said, in a strong voice that held no hint of health troubles. “I call half of you my children, and the other half my grandchildren.”
“This is nice. Thanks y’all very much,” she said meaningfully.
Archie lives at the end of Depot Street, in a house known to passersby for its collection of exotic yard art. It’s just a couple of blocks from the school building at 212 Gamble St. that has seen many changes during her lifetime.
Mary Archie was born in Davidson on Jan. 16, 1926. The building opened in 1937 as the Davidson Colored School, where Archie was a student under teacher and principal Ada Jenkins. It remained a school until 1965, when desegregation took its students to other schools in Davidson and north Mecklenburg.
Since then, it has had a variety of incarnations. After the school closed, it became one of the area’s first Head Start centers. In the 1970s, it operated as a community center, and for the past 15 years it has housed the Ada Jenkins Center, a sort of social services hub for Lake Norman.
Through it all, Mary Archie has been involved in one way or another, according to Georgia Krueger, the center’s executive director.
Krueger helped organize Thursday’s celebration, during which she presented Archie with a plaque designating the LearnWorks After School Program classroom as the Mary Louis Archie Classroom. “We think of you, pretty much everyone in this room, as a mom,” Krueger said.
“This is your room, it’s been your room for a long time.” Krueger told her.
As the crowd held hands, the Rev. Darrell Van Pelt of Davidson Presbyterian Church offered a prayer. He said the day was “to celebrate the work of Sister Archie, the work that she’s done here at Ada Jenkins, that she came to volunteer and touched the lives of not only the staff but many of the young people.”
Mayor John Woods was there, too, to read a proclamation declaring it Mary Archie Day. (See the proclamation below.)
Ruby Houston, another neighborhood resident who once attended the Ada Jenkins School, said Archie “has contributed all of her life to be a role model for so many adults and children. Because of her own skills and abilities many children learned to read. She has hidden talents such as cooking, gardening, singing, sewing and making beautiful quilts, which have been shared as gifts for our pastors and many other people.”
“Mrs. Archie is one that everyone would say, ‘She can do anything she puts her mind to do.’ I know she is the glue that holds a strong family together especially on Sundays after church for those great soul food meals,” Houston said.
Houston also attends Davidson Presbyterian Church, where Archie is an elder and senior choir member, “with a voice that helps to hold a church family together.”
A short time later, the crowd persuaded Archie to sing, first her favorite hymn “Redeem, I Been Washed in The Blood of The Land,” and then, with LearnWorks teacher Austin Scott, a rendition of “Just Keep on Praying.” (Listen to the songs below.)
Diane Means, director of the LearnWorks program and a friend for 15 years, said like many people in the room she had “two grandmas,” her own and Archie. She recalled how both women had taught her “the same four important things: love your family, love the Lord, work really hard and be honest. If I can be those four things like you and like granny, I would be so proud.”
Archie also offered memories, telling stories about her children, about how she never rode a school bus, and about the sparse lunches at Ada Jenkins – often just a fresh apple somebody brought up to the school.
How times have changed for children, she observed. “We were so excited when Christmastime came. They get Christmastime every week now,” she said, to a chorus of “amens.”
Archie thanked friends and family, and said despite her health, “I’m not going until He says it’s time. I am not afraid, but I’m tired.”
“Everybody in here is my family,” she added. “Everyone in here – all I have to do is call on you and you’ll be there.”
April 23, 2007, “Ada Jenkins history reflects the town’s health”
In 2007, the town and county designated the building as a historic landmark.
LISTEN TO MS. ARCHIE SING
Listen to Mary Archie sing “Redeem,” one of her favorite hymns, during Thursday’s gathering. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE> (MP3, 1 min, 34 sec)
Here’s Mary Archie and Austin Scott singing “Just Keep on Prayin’.” Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE> (MP3, 1 min. 28 sec)
?Mary Archie Day
WHEREAS, Ms. Mary Archie has lived in Davidson her entire life; and
WHEREAS, she attended the Davidson Colored School and had Miss Ada Jenkins as both a teacher and principal; and
WHEREAS, she is the loving mother of four children and is a mother to countless others in town; and
WHEREAS, she has stayed involved with the Davidson Colored School and Ada Jenkins Center since her days as a school girl; and
WHEREAS, she has served the Ada Jenkins Center’s LEARN Works program as the Snack Coordinator for fifteen years; and
WHEREAS, she has faithfully served the students and families of our community for decades; and
WHEREAS, as the Ada Jenkins Center names a room in her honor;
NOW THEREFORE, I, John Woods, Mayor of the Town of Davidson do hereby proclaim this day as MARY ARCHIE DAY.
Dated on this 31st day of October, 2013
Town of Davidson, North Carolina
John M. Woods, Mayor