At the age of four, resident Devetia Condray was milking cows on the family farm.
“I was more of a tomboy and loved to be outside,” she said. Enjoying life in the great outdoors is something that continued throughout her adulthood, too.
Ever since her only son, JB, was 12, Devetia remembers spending Mother’s Day at the lake with her husband, John Burton Condray, and son.
“Usually on Mother’s Day we ended up going to the lake and fishing and boat riding. We roughed it – we had a tent and cots to sleep on and a little stove. I can’t swim a lick, but I learned to water ski. I enjoyed it very much,” said Devetia.
“We always had a lot of fun,” said JB, Devetia’s son. “Mom would put that life jacket on, jump in the water and the first or second time we pulled her she popped right up out of the water. She was waterskiing! She was quite the character.”
Making memories with her family was important to Devetia. That’s why she started a tradition of getting the whole family together at least every four years when her son’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving to celebrate with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
One year those plans went up in smoke … literally.
“One Thanksgiving, JB thought he’d do like his grandpa and roll a cigarette. He snuck out of the house to smoke behind everybody’s back and pretty soon we saw smoke. My son had gone by the haystack and it had caught on fire,” said Devetia.
“That taught me a lesson about playing with matches,” said JB. “That haystack went up and everyone was trying to put it out. It was like one of those things you see in the movies. It was a Thanksgiving to remember for a long time!”
Devetia added, “My sister-in-law and I were dressed in our prime with heels and there he (JB) was barefooted in the mud fighting the fire. After it was all over, we just laughed about it.”
Laughing is just one of the many things Devetia has shared and passed on to other generations in her family, too.
“Granny and I were inseparable during the summers of my youth,” said Michelle Guess, Devetia’s granddaughter. “She would make a 10-hour drive by herself to pick me up—she was fearless! We filled the days with many adventures. You might find us visiting the bingo hall, growing strawberries, sprinkling her flowers with love, watching the hummingbirds, feeding the catfish in her pond, knitting or creating a wardrobe for my Barbie doll (she was high maintenance). Granny really had no rules, just have fun, and best of all there were no restrictions on the amount of bubbles you could have in your bath!”
Devetia was also known for teaching life lessons that were a little more basic.
“I loved the way she brought me up—teaching me right from wrong,” said JB. “She said to always treat people the way you’d expect them to treat you back. And always turn the other cheek when you can. One of her favorite sayings was ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”
Michelle added, “Granny taught me the importance of being honest, responsible and kind. I’m extremely fortunate that she proudly passed along her green thumb and love for cooking to me, too. Effortlessly, she could whip up the tastiest, crispiest fried chicken ever and top it off with a German Chocolate Cake made from scratch.”
JB agreed, “I loved that meal! She also fixed excellent pork chops, and she could fix liver and it was absolutely delicious. Mom could cook anything. She was fantastic. She was the kind of mom anybody would want to grow up with.”
“As I celebrate Mother’s Day, I celebrate granny too,” said Michelle. “She just didn’t tell me, but showed me, how to live life simply. Never forget to cherish the moments as they will pass quickly, but the memories you make will last forever. I have been blessed and have so much appreciation and love for my independent, spunky, joyful granny!”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in our community!
PHOTOS: Left, Devetia received her 70-year pin from the Order of the Eastern Star, a fraternal organization for female relatives of Master Masons, in the fall of 2018. (She is pictured here with Judy Terrill, Worthy Matron). Devetia’s brother, Arliss Martin, was a Mason. “Years ago, I got my 50-year pin. Now I have this one. It means a lot to me. It means I should be obedient to people. If you live by that, you’re a pretty good person, pretty good member, a mother and everything,” said Devetia.
Middle, pictured are grandson John Condray III (John), granddaughter Michelle Condray Guess, Devetia, and great-grandson John Burton Condray IV (John Burton).
Right, John Burton celebrated Devetia’s 92nd birthday in style. He knows how to make her eyes sparkle