By Ethan Colbert
Born with an insatiable sweet tooth, Mary Huff-Oxford savored each bite of her chocolate-and-vanilla marbled birthday cake on Friday afternoon.
With each bite of the cake, the local centenarian closed her watery-blue eyes and smiled.
When asked why she smiled, Huff-Oxford said she smiled because she thought maybe on centennial birthday she had finally figured out the meaning of life.
“I’m sitting here at 100-years-old and I am thinking how in the heck did I do it,” Huff-Oxford said. “I could have kicked the bucket so many times when I was in my 60s, 70s, or 80s. Now, I have even outlived the bucket.”
According to Huff-Oxford, her advice to anyone wishing for longevity is to “Eat, Drink and Be Merry.”
And for those who might be skeptical of Huff-Oxford’s advice she counters by saying, “It worked for me, didn’t it?”
Have An Appetite for Life
From humble beginnings on her family’s farm in rural Montgomery County, Mary Huff would over time become a resident of Oklahoma, California, and an American living abroad in England, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
Born on January 12, 1918, in rural Montgomery County, Mary Huff was the third child born to Thomas T. Huff and Zella DeBerry Huff.
In 1930, records from the U.S. Census show Mary Huff, then 12 years old, as living with her stepfather, Fred W. Ellis. The family was living in Stoutland, Mo., which was her mother’s hometown.
According to an online database of the Stoutland Cemetery, Mary’s mother had died on April 1, 1928, as the result of a “motorized carriage accident.”
According to the 1940 census, Mary Huff was living in Brea, California.
The U.S. Census record also noted that on April 1, 1935, Mary Huff had lived in Bristol, England. The notation was later changed to say Mignon, Oklahoma.
The census reports that Huff’s occupation was working as a sales clerk at a notions store and that she had been a senior at a college, but had not completed her degree.
“Everywhere I lived, I lived with purpose,” Huff-Oxford said in an interview following her birthday party. “I always knew where I was wanting to go and I would not let anything or anyone stop me.”
According to the local centenarian, her life’s purpose stemmed from an abnormally large appetite for life — to see new things, to visit cultures different than her own, and to meet interesting people along the way.
Her adventurous spirit may be something that she inherited from her father, Thomas T. Huff. According to several of her family friends, Huff-Oxford’s father went to Panama to help construct the Panama Canal. However, there are no records of her father being one of the more than 4,000 Americans who traveled to Central America to construct the canal.
“People have asked me if I would encourage people, particularly young women, to go overseas,” Huff-Oxford said. “I can’t encourage or discourage anyone from doing that. If you look at the people today who are overseas, there are not that many women who go out and do that. I don’t blame women, I can’t. It is tough when you move to many different countries, to learn new languages, to always be meeting different people.”
Instead, Huff-Oxford said she would encourage people to fill their own appetites.
“I say, go live each day the way you want it to be lived,” Huff-Oxford said. “Do something each day that is meaningful to you.”
Drink Water, Avoid the Whiskey
Huff-Oxford’s second piece of advice to those wishing to live a long life is to lay off the booze.
“I definitely do not think people should be drinking whiskey,” Huff-Oxford said. “I drank whiskey once when I was in my 20s. It was terrible. I had that one taste of whiskey and I was done. Ever since then, I could never understand how people drink the stuff.”
Instead of whiskey, Huff-Oxford thinks that people should drink more water.
Value People, Be Merry
The one thing that Mary Huff-Oxford said she enjoyed more on Friday than the sweet treats was being reunited with her friends from Curryville and the surrounding area.
“I have been blessed with so many good friends,” Huff-Oxford said. “They are all very precious to me.”
She continued, “Every place that I have lived, I have met people who made my life better. I valued each of their friendships. I wish people today valued people better. I wish people were kinder to their neighbors.”
However, don’t expect the local centenarian to be hosting too many social functions in the near future.
“Sometimes it is awfully nice to visit with people,” Huff-Oxford said. “Sometimes, though, all I really want to do is kick them in the shin because they won’t stop talking, and I am trying to watch television.”
Moments later, in one of the few serious conversations that Huff-Oxford said she had on Friday, the centenarian said she regretted not having children of her own.
“If I regret anything from my life, it is that I did not have children of my own,” Huff-Oxford said. During the course of the conversation, Huff-Oxford explained that she believes she was unable to conceive children due to infertility. “Children are such a great gift of joy and I missed my chance at having that joy. I missed my chance to have a child who called me, ‘Mom.’”
Without children of her own, Huff-Oxford said she it became very important for her to move to Curryville to care for her ailing nephew, Herschel “Sonny” Huff.
“Family should be important to everyone,” Huff-Oxford said. “Without family and friends, no life is really complete.”
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