94 years of making her heaven on earth
“I like old people, young people, fat people, skinny people, black people, white people, rich people, poor people, and all other kinds of people. Wouldn’t it be dreadful, dull and tiresome to be restricted to, or to restrict one’s self, to only one kind?”— Mildred Luckey Harris BakerAt the celebration of her life last Tuesday, tributes delivered by two granddaughters and a step-daughter beautifully described this most delightful woman who touched so many lives in so many ways.
Those lives include, of course, family, extended family, friends of family and acquaintances made along a remarkable 94-year journey. I fall into the friends-offamily category. Mildred’s oldest son was one of my best buds in high school and I spent many an hour with the Harris clan.
They often say that successful entrepreneurs have the “Midas touch.” Mildred had the “People touch.” She described herself as a “people person.” Indeed, when you visited her at a local nursing home and later in the hospital’s assisted living wing, she was always in the social area with other residents when she wasn’t sleeping.
“I guess a pencil and paper are about my two favorite things in the whole wide world.”
Never with the aid of a word processor or computer, Mildred wrote volumes about family history, stories about her life and the lives of others, all with a pencil or a pen, in spiral notebooks. She had spiral notebooks full of stories and anecdotes on countless subjects. They filled a wall of bookshelves at her home.
Those notebooks have been, and will be, an education for her children, step-children, 18 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, and eventually their families. Those notebooks will be revered.
You know how we’ve all said, “I wish I had asked my grandparents and parents more questions about their lives?” Mil- dred’s extended family will never have that thought.
One of her volumes, “My Life in Pleasant Hill,” about growing up in that community, will be featured in Joy Graham’s local history columns that appear in this newspaper. You will enjoy the series. Mildred was a historian before there was a historical society and a genealogist before that became vogue.
Mildred was preceded in death by two fine husbands, Harry Harris and Babe Baker. She enjoyed— and provided—a wonderful life with both.
She wrote a journal entitled “31 Moves to Date” about her nomadic life with the fun-loving Harry who often said, “Everyone should live within their means, even if they have to borrow a little money to do it.”
I don’t know how many notebooks all her travels with Babe produced. Over a period of many years, they saw the entire USA in a Volkswagen bus. (No, it was not painted in psychedelic patterns a la the Sixties.) Naturally, Mildred made friends all along the way.
“I’m glad I’m Mildred. And being Mildred in Rockdale is about as good as things can get.”
What could this town accomplish if everybody was such a walking Chamber of Commerce?
“I try to live my life in such a way that when I get to the Pearly Gates, the folks up there will say, ‘Oh, good, here comes Mildred!’ instead of ‘Oh God, are we going to have to tolerate her up here too?’”
A lover of good music, one of Mildred’s favorite songs was the Dixieland classic “Basin Street Blues.” One line in that song refers to “heaven on earth.” Mildred, regardless of her situation, knew all about how to make her heaven on earth, for herself and all those around her.
She spent 94 years doing just that.