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Who is Era Montez Henry Hays… she was 95 years young.
First she was a daughter to Oscie Madonias Henry and Cora Elizabeth Manning Henry. Her father was of English/Irish decent, probably from Wales, and some believe the linage of Patrick Henry’s brother (remember – “give me liberty or give me death,” and I believe some of that flowed down the ancestry chain). He was a frail man, a lifetime of heart issues. Cora Elizabeth Manning we believe was of German/Dutch descent. We always joked at the way we said “M’s,” milk is pronounced “Mimk,” we always blamed our Dutch grandmother for that one! A few days ago mom asked for her “quill” which we always knew was her drinking straw.
Second, she was a sister to her many siblings, Horace, Herschel, Readie, Evel, Mae, Vassie, and Obera. Mom had a sweet gentle side but never underestimate her feisty side which she attributed to having older brothers to pick at her and her sister, Obera, who was 3 years older but due to a heart condition had to wear funny looking shoes (weak legs), and had fainting spells. Mom became her “protector.” Walking her to school. Protecting her from the bullies at school. Mom learned “loss” at an early age when she lost her precious Obera at the age of 20 to our family demon of heart disease. In our house it was a cardinal sin to even “think” of making fun of someone for something they couldn’t help. You just didn’t do it!!
She was a friend to the underdog. Mom’s co-worker friends were often the battered divorcee, wife of the poorest among us. She was a seamstress by trade, meticulous about her work almost to the point of perfection. She would say,” They’ve got to have so much “quality” to sell their “quantity”.” It made me less money but I slept good at night.” She was a friend to my friends also. I can remember when she sewed all day and came home and sewed most of the night to make my friend a black chorus dress for the next day, my friend speaks of it to this day.
She was a war bride as my Dad was in the Pacific 3 1/2 years in WWII. When he returned, 2 ½ weeks later they were married when they “found a preacher,” it lasted 67 years until my Dad passed away.
They were a beautiful couple. Cousins said they thought they were “movie stars” when they saw Dad in his uniform and met Mom in her cute little “trouser” pants, not seen a lot in that day.
Mom was ahead of her time in a lot of ways. One of the first to work outside the home to help give us more. One of the first in the community to have her babies in the hospital, which worked well for me as I was transferred to Children’s Hospital on day one of my life. The 1st baby to go to Birmingham from Cullman for cleft palate and repair surgery. She recounted how difficult it was to be left behind in Cullman, as Daddy and all 5lbs of me was carried through a fierce thunderstorm to Birmingham.
Mom always had a “six Sense” I think when it came to her kids. Knowing, when we were “near” trouble, as she knew and asked the church to pray. When my brother was in Vietnam, we later found out he was packed in ice at that time with malaria. My sister, Kathy, always said when she had a date, Mom gave her some change and said, “in case you need to call me.”
She was a “child of God”, member of New Hope #2 Baptist Church, with a very deep faith that unwavered. She was not one to wear her faith on her sleeve, she just lived it, day by day, step by step.
And to us she was Mom, and to the grands she was Mamaw. She was Mom to myself (Wonda), Kathy, and my late brother, Royce. I remember as a child buttercups and honeysuckles on the tablecloth on the table. She would go to the field or woods to get them.
I remember we prayed at the table. No T.V. We talked.
I remember, on Saturdays she stood and ironed our starched fresh dresses and put long black ringlets in my hair. On Sunday, there were Easter Egg hunts at my house, my friends and cousins from church around the table. Fried chicken, pot roast, cobblers, cake and chicken stew.
She lived through childhood family illness, the great depression, World War II, saw penicillin and electricity and indoor plumbing and a man put on the moon. She was truly one of the “greatest generation.”
Awhile before Mom passed, Mom had us take her to the Funeral home to prepare. She paid for everything and chose “white eyelet” in her casket and that I thought, is “so” Mom, “crisp and clean and ready for you Jesus.”
We Love You with all our hearts and souls. We will miss you but memories will always be with us, Mom. “Well done good and Faithful servant!!!”
Late Husband – Ones Lee Hays (deceased) married 67 years.
Children: Royce Hays (deceased), Wonda (Mike) Martin, Kathy (Kevin) Shabel
Daughter-in-law: Linda (Charles) Cook
Grandchildren: Rodney (Tanya) Hays, Richard (April) Hays, Amy Martin Lewis (Brad),
Wade Martin (Magaly), Jonathan Shabel (Mallory), Andrea Shabel Voss (Alex)
Great-Grandchildren: Carter Hays, Callie Hays, Thomas Hays (Hannah), Gavin Hays (Marissa), Cody Lewis, Austin Lewis, Lydia Lewis, Miller Shabel.
Great-Great-Grandchildren: Emie Grace Hays, Sophia Hays, Harper Kate Hays, Hattie Hays.
A host of departed friends and family as well as a host of nephews and nieces and cousins she loved dearly.
She died of natural causes but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will have a limited family graveside service and plan to have a celebration of life memorial after the restrictions are lifted.
Mom asked me to tell her family 1st and then to all that came, “She loved you all.” She would joke, “no one will be at my funeral, most of my friends are gone.” I would assure her we’d show up, little did I imagine a corona virus pandemic. Like I said, Mom you always had a sixth sense. Love you Mama.
Written by Wonda Hays Martin