Bethel community remembers local memorable personality Lucy Mae Clark
On New Year’s Day of this year, members of the Bethel community say they lost a local memorable personality.
That's when they lost Lucy Mae Clark, a loyal employee at Frank’s Grocery who faithfully greeted area residents in the community store for over 30 years with her feisty, teasing and often love/hate spirited personality.
“With Lucy, if she was on your good side, she would be calling you ‘Honey’ but, if she was on your bad side, she would be calling you, well, a lot more colorful names,” said Harold Mashburn, who worked alongside Clark.
Clark died from pneumonia at 91 years old.
When locals around Frank’s Grocery heard of Clark’s passing, they say they were deeply saddened, but couldn’t help but grin through their tears thinking about funny times. According to area residents, sometimes Clark made them mad and sometimes she made them laugh, but she always left them with unforgettable memories.
Allen Lee, another of Clark’s co-workers, remembers Clark greeting some of her favorite customers with “Hey you ‘ole jackrabbit,” greeting the kids with “There comes my little ‘ole sweetheart,” and declaring, “Well, look what the cat drug in!” if somebody came in the store she hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Every Christmas Day, she would call people and always say ‘Christmas gift’ first because she said the other person on the line had to buy her a Christmas gift if she said that first,” recalled Lee, also noting that some of Clark’s favorite foods were cantaloupe with vanilla ice cream scooped in it and chocolate covered orange stick candy.
One of the first days Lee worked at the store, he asked Clark, “Where do you put the stuff that doesn’t fit on the shelf?” and she retorted, “You put it on the shelf or you wear it!”
Clark was known for pulling pranks on customers and aggravating the ones she liked the most. In turn, the customers started pulling pranks on her in return.
“I never will forget Ronnie Warlick used to steal Lucy’s glasses and put them in the freezer. Lucy would miss her glasses and go to looking for them and there she would find them in the freezer and she would go to hollering,” added Lee.
“She definitely kept things livened up at the store,” agreed Ramona Blaylock, who owned Frank’s Grocery alongside her husband, Frank, a first cousin to Clark.
“Lucy treated everybody the same and like she had known them her whole life,” added Clark’s first cousin, Hazel Inman.
Harold Mashburn fondly remembers eating supper with Lucy and the Blaylock’s when he worked in the evening.
“I remember Ramona’s mother Rowena Buckner would cook supper for everybody in the store,” said Mashburn, pointing out she cooked good country food like biscuits, cornbread, apple fritters, beans and “taters.” “Me and Lucy would always eat together on our 30-minute supper break and then she would go to eating her Crunch ‘n Munch and get it all over the carpet and some of the other workers would aggravate her about having to vacuum it all up and it was just a real good, fun, tight-knit working family.”
“Lucy is a person I can think of and grin and have fond memories about because she just made a work atmosphere that was enjoyable to come to,” Mashburn added.
Gail Burress, who worked with Lucy for 18 years, recalls her always giving her cornfield beans from her garden and the fun times going out to eat with Lucy and Maggie, Lucy’s mother. One day on Clark’s day off, the three were sitting in an Asheville restaurant when Clark smelled dog manure.
“We got to looking and it was caked on the bottom of Maggie’s shoes and Lucy took them to the bathroom and washed them off and we had to ride with the windows down all the way home!” said Burress.
While Clark often wore a “tough love” face in the store, she only had a pure love for her niece in Newport News, Va., Elaine Sherrill, who spent summers with Clark from age 3 to 17 and whom Clark thought of as a daughter. “Me and Aunt Lucy were very, very close and went everywhere together like over the mountain into Brevard, to Cherokee, Gatlinburg and to church at Riverside Baptist Church,” said Sherrill. “Then we just enjoyed relaxing times swinging on the swings and cooking hot dogs and hanging out with neighbors.”
Since Sherrill knew Clark loved shrimp, she brought her shrimp from Captain’s Bay the last time she visited with Clark in the nursing home at Silver Bluff Village. “I remember she said, ‘You’re my gal and I love you,’ then she asked me where my mom and dad were,” Sherrill recalled. “One of the last things she said was, ‘They’ve all gone and left me and I want to go with them.’”
“I loved her dearly and she’s going to be missed,” added Sherrill.
“I guess I would end with saying that Lucy was just a real good somebody,” said Harold Mashburn.