“The most important to all, peoples do not know God. And most of em don’t wanna know Him. People don’t have time for families. You don’t sit down there and talk to them or sing together or do nothing with em.”-Words of wisdom spoken by 100-year-old, Ollie Mae Dugar.
By Rebecca S. Jones
Oprah Winfrey once shared an invaluable lesson on life in which she rendered the following. “We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, and we’re not glowing, and we’re not hot, that we don’t matter. I refuse to let a system or a culture or a distorted view of reality tell me that I don’t matter. I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you.”
One might conclude “stepping into the fullness of life,” would be an understatement for Mrs. Ollie Mae Dugar. By the grace of God, she will be celebrating her 100thbirthday on February 10. Within five scores of living she has been the “backbone” of her family; a “Good Samaritan” throughout the community; an upright “Christian” in her church and has demonstrated a “witty and loving personality” to every spirit she meets. Though gentle and kind describes her perfectly, somehow, sassy and feisty runs parallel as well.
A Humble Beginning
Ollie Mae Dugar hails from Fulton, Louisiana. Her birthright positions her as the youngest daughter and number 11 of 14 children born to Cleveland Gite and Cora Leflore. She never remembered much of her rearing in Plaquemine, LA, because her family moved when she was four. Cleveland, her father was a hard-working farmer who loved his family.
In a quest to explore better opportunities for them, he relocated the family by horse and carriage and train to Beaumont. His initial intent was to become a rice farmer, one of the “going things” in that day. Ollie Mae shared that for the first couple of years, the rice farming industry did not produce well for them. Therefore, Cleveland began raising cotton, vegetables, and fruit and could see an abundant return on his investment.
Besides going to church and school, Ollie Mae enjoyed working closely with her father in the fields and equally assisting her mother in the home. Her undying love and commitment towards her parents were exemplified when she moved to Houston to live with her eldest brother and sister-in-law.
While living in Third Ward with them, she attended Jack Yates High School. However, after learning her parents needed assistance, she decided to suspend her studies and return home to help. In doing so, she cared and tended to her siblings.
During our interview, Ollie Mae shared some of the experiences she had while at home with her parents. She said, “Washing was an all-day job and we had a big canal, where we would bring water in for the rice. I used to have a bucket and would put it on the bridge to get water and bring it back to the shed and wash all them clothes on that washboard.”
She continued, “But I used to always say, ‘if things ever change for me, I want to sing.’ We had a big homemade toilet inside the restroom, and I would have it all nice and clean. On Saturday that was my job, to clean it out with the lye soap. Ya know, women made they own lye soap… And I would get it clean and my father would come and help me sometimes, and we would be in there just singing.”
Curiously I asked, ‘What kind of songs would yall sing?’ Immediately, she began singing, “Glory, Glory Hallelujah….” and “Going to talk to God, if you feel overloaded go and visit the man upstairs, and he will tell you what to do.”
As we continued, I couldn’t resist inquiring about segregations. Ollie Mae revealed the following. “We did everything within and around our Black community, because my father worked for himself. We never interacted with or knew nothing about the White folks. We worked, went to church, shopped and took care of each other in our own community. I’ve lived to see a lot of change. But, seems like we still got a very long way to go with the way things have been going on in this country.”
The Dugar Legacy
On July 16, 1938, Ollie Mae married Aristile (Pim) Dugar, the love of her life at St. Nicholas Catholic Church Rectory. Prior to, the couple had met at a La-La (Zydeco house party dance) in Third Ward. In 1941, they moved to Acres Home. There, Aristile built a 4-room house for the family.
In 1949, it was extended to a 7-room home with a closed-in porch, with the help of a contractor for the framing; but, Aristile did all the other laboring work. Ollie Mae was right by his side walking the ladder up and down, handing him the shingles-when it was time to finish the roof.
The Dugars went on to rear their four children. Barbara, James, Jeanette and Melvin. Each attended St. Monica Catholic Church and were educated in the Aldine Independent School District. Through Ollie Mae and her late husband’s four children, they have been blessed with 14 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren, and 15 great-great grandchildren; who have taken her value and thirst for education to complete high school, earn Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees, as well as professional certifications.
Along with education, Ollie Mae was consummate in passing on her hard work ethics and determination, where her family operates as successful military servicemen and officers, teachers, entrepreneurs, healthcare and business professionals. Although Ollie Mae has been a homemaker for most of her life, she has had the opportunity to work as a housekeeper, school cook and assistance nurse’s aide. Having never met a stranger, she is known as “Grandma” to everyone’s kids. Until this very day, she is still; an avid reader, chef, gardener and seamstress. If she’s not busy in her garden, planting beautiful flowers, she’s inside on a rainy-day patching quilts or mending clothing.
Words from the Wise
Ollie Mae offers a few pointers for those who want a snippet of her fountain of youth. They are found in the beliefs listed below:
-Keep a strong Christian faith and realize that God is always in control.
-Remember that God sits on the throne and looks high and low at everything, and everybody. Just turn any troubles over to him and let him fight your battles. Once you do that, sleep well at night, he will handle it.
-Relax and live simple. Be happy and content with the gifts that God has bestowed on you.
-Be willing to share what you have, no matter how little you have-no matter how-much you have.
-Never intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. Know that everyone makes mistakes, those of us in high and low places. If a person truly is sorry/remorseful about the wrong they have done you, and ask you for forgiveness, it should be granted. You not only free them, but you free yourself as well.
-Always be yourself and make your own decisions. In the end, you will be glad you did.
-Have a little talk with Jesus every day and everything will be alright.
-Always put a little change away for a rainy day. Better to have and not need, then to need and not have.
-Don’t wait for the holidays to eat/cook what you want. Cook you a big spread of food to enjoy it, just because it’s Wednesday.