Necessity is a tremendous teacher. In the good old days, family values weren't an option, they were personal survival. Emma Cary of Prairie City is qualified to speak on these subjects and more.

Born the eldest of 11 children, Emma learned to be a mother by helping to raise her younger brothers and sisters. "Before I had a family of my own, I was very experienced at raising kids," says Emma. All of her talents were drawn out by a life full of self-reliance. "The friends and neighbors who are complimentary to me about my quilts and needlework are talking about something I did out of necessity, not for want of recognition." So much of what has been lost from days gone by points to the incentive for self-sacrifice which seems anathema in today's lifestyles.

Emma met her husband Robert by becoming his pen pal via mutual friends. After 14 months of courtship-by-mail, she and Robert married. Together they raised three girls and one boy. Son Robert Jr. recounts his mother's influence on himself and the family. "She's been my best friend all my life," he says. "Always keeping me on the straight and narrow, and keeping our family together." He considers himself lucky to have taken after her ability to manage many different tasks as the need arises.

Most of Emma's 50-plus years here in Grant County have been spent in Prairie City. She claims to have been over every peak and trail in these parts. "I'd have a tin basket packed with plates, silverware, salt and pepper ready all the time," she remembers. "I'd put some boiled eggs and sausage in, we'd get in the pickup and just go." These all-day jaunts, gained in frequency once the kids were raised and gone. Emma and Bob would poke around to their hearts content, enjoying the flowers and animals.

"I do miss a long rainy season, one that would allow for more kinds of plants," she laments. She has always enjoyed gardening and at one time could boast of a doll collection containing some 300 in stock. Currently, she has several on display in the DeWitt Museum at Depot Park in Prairie City.

At 91 years of age, Emma Cary still enjoys a good sense of humor, an inquisitive mind, an energetic and positive disposition, and above all she still enjoys her family. "As you grow old you change physically, but not emotionally; my feelings are as strong now as ever," she states. When asked about the future she declares that she wants to be around as long as she can recognize and enjoy her kids.

Family and time are precious commodities. The need to recognize their connection is a prerequisite for family unity: Mothering is a lifetime job, even at 91.






1998 Roxann Gess Smith
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