On August 11, 1922, Bettie and Junious Goode welcomed Mamie Eliza into the world in Waverly, Virginia. Mamie proved early in life that she was strong-willed and determined. She had pneumonia three times before the age of five. When the doctor predicted that she would not survive her last bout with the disease, her parents decided to let her stay with her maternal grandmother, Mary Parker, a respected healer and midwife. According to Mamie, she begged her grandmother to make her a nightgown like the ones the girls wore in the Sears catalogs. While nursing her granddaughter back to health, Grandma Mary sewed Mamie a gown made from bleached flour sacks. Mamie lived to wear the gown.
After recovering from pneumonia, Mamie refused to leave her grandmother’s house, where she stayed until Mary died in 1936. She attended Sussex County Training School in Wavery, Virginia until the 9th grade. At the age of 16, she left Waverly and went to live in Portsmouth with her Aunt Mamie Parker Jones. There she met and married her first husband, Terry Harrison in 1942. After studying in night school, she received her high school diploma from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia and also attended cosmetology school.
Her marriage to Harrison was short-lived. In 1955, she married Alton Gay, who passed away in 1986 after 31 years of marriage. They never had any children, but loved traveling together in their camper, and raising several dogs, all named “Champ.”
On March 27, 1989, she married Melvin Foote. The couple resided in Virginia Beach where they lived quietly and shared a love for bowling.
Mamie was always a hard worker. Among her many jobs was a beautician, a packer at Colonial stores, and a bus driver for the HRT van transporting senior citizens to day activities. She loved exercising at the “spa” well into her 80s, and was an active volunteer for the Salvation Army. Mamie was a member of the Eastern Star, and the founder and mother of Mt. Zion Interdenominational Christian Community Church in Norfolk, Virginia.
She died August 28, 2018 at the age of 96.
Mamie Gay is survived by her husband, Melvin Foote; her sister Barbara Cooper (Willie Cooper), her niece and nephew, Desiree Cooper and Willie Cooper, Jr. (Maria Cooper); and a host of nieces and nephews.
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