By visiting with Mary Thomas Jett, you would have no idea she will be celebrating her 100th birthday on April 27.
Looking nothing like a person about to reach the century mark, Jett also has a mind as sharp as many people half her age. Jett attributes her longevity to a healthy lifestyle. Although she has resided at Heritage Hall-Laurel Meadows in Laurel Fork for nearly three years now, Jett walked two miles a day while she lived at Briarleigh Court Apartments in Hillsville well into her 90s. Over the past decade, she also was a frequent visitor to the Carroll Wellness Center, where she participated in water aerobics.
“I would still be going if I was close enough. I know I have been blessed with good health,” Jett said, before offering a little sage advice for today’s generation. “Try to stay healthy and stay active. They have so many things now to do they didn’t have when I was growing up like the Wellness Center.”
Jett’s daughter, Dianne Raymond of Roanoke, said she is trying to follow her mother’s example.
“I am a walker now because of her. I would come up to Hillsville and she would say we are going to walk at 7. I would say, ‘We’re going to what?’ She would fix us a cup of coffee and away we would go,” Raymond said. “She is an inspiration.”
Although she doesn’t read as much as she used to, Jett said she used to read a lot. She’s also always had a love for crafts such as knitting and crocheting. She attributes those things as well as staying active and always eating healthy as a reason her mind has stayed so sharp for so long.
The wife of the late Clinton Jett, Mary and her husband had two children –Diane Jett Raymond and the late Bob Jett. Mary was well-known throughout Hillsville and Carroll County as a long-time member of the Hillsville Presbyterian Church and the Hillsville Woman’s Club and Garden Club. She was also a member of the ladies auxiliary at the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department, where her late husband Clinton was a founding member.
“She was very involved. Back in the day when I was growing up, all we had was the volunteer fire department and they would work the fires on Fancy Gap Mountain. The women would fix food and take out there to them,” Raymond said of her mother.
Clinton Jett joined the fire department when it was first organized and the department’s original building was beside the Jetts’ home on West Grayson Street. Firefighting became a tradition in the family, as Clinton’s nephew Erroll Rhea has been in the department for more than 50 years.
Mary Jett worked many years in the area, including jobs at Bob’s Men’s Wear and manager of the Jenrette’s Ladies Store in Galax. She worked there until her husband became ill, so she retired to take care of him before his passing in 1983. The couple was married for 48 years.
As a child, Jett’s mother died when she was just four years old. She moved about three miles outside of Hillsville with cousins of her mother, Minnie and Fielden Worrell, and attended the one-room Sunnyside School. After finishing the eighth grade, she went to work with the Worrells on the farm.
“Back then you had to go to Hillsville, so I didn’t go to high school. We worked,” Jett said.
During the summer of 1934, Jett had been attending Bible School at Mountain Plains Church when she was introduced to a man four years her senior, Clinton Jett. Clinton asked Paul Martin, a mutual friend of the two, to introduce them on the final day of Bible School.
“When we came out of church Paul and Clinton were sitting out there in Clinton’s car waiting for us to come out. So he introduced him and two girls that were my two friends that were with me,” Jett said. “Paul wanted to go home, so we took him home and we rode around with the girls a while. Then we took them home. And then we rode a little while longer and then we went to my home and that was the beginning. He got to meet everybody. I started dating Clinton in May and we got married the 29th day of December.”
Even today, Jett serves as an inspiration to many of her fellow residents at Heritage Hall-Laurel Meadows. She currently serves as president of the residents’ council there.
“She is the go-to person here,” Raymond said. “She’s always been that way, even when she was at Briarleigh. If anyone died, mother took up the money for the flowers. That’s the way it’s always been and they knew they could depend on mom to do it and get it taken care of.”
Anyone wishing to send Jett a birthday card or well wishes can do so at Heritage Hall-Laurel Meadows, c/o Mary Jett, 16600 Danville Pike, Laurel Fork, VA., 24352.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]