For many years, Judge Joanne Mayberry would call me up and ask me to run a little ad, just one column wide by one inch deep, and all it needed to say was “Sweet William.”
It was in honor of her late husband, William R. Mayberry. I don’t remember if we printed it annually on his birthday or their anniversary date, but it meant something to her. She wanted it each year on a specific date, so I made sure it got in the paper. There was no other text to the ad, so readers who saw it wouldn’t know what it meant. Only she, I and anyone else she confided in would know. It didn’t matter to her; it was her way of honoring her husband, whom she loved dearly.
My desk phone rang a couple of times a month, maybe more, and it would be Judge Mayberry commenting on something I or another reporter had covered. She usually didn’t have to identify herself; I immediately recognized her accent, which I always thought was from the Northeast, but she was born in Illinois.
She was a gem. She served as municipal judge from 1975 through 1996. She did not have a law degree. I don’t think she had a degree at all. Nevertheless, she administered justice evenly, was respected throughout the Missouri, maybe, national judiciary and held offices in judicial associations. She wrote and edited court rules that I suppose are still in effect in Missouri.
Hers was a remarkable career, and it started when she was in the police station taking care of some kind of business and heard a child crying in the jail. The child’s mother was being held, the child had no place to go, and apparently the conditions in the jail at the time were atrocious.
She went to work, got the jail closed and became a legal reformer.
Her contributions were briefly outlined in a story Thursday, but ink on paper can never tell the full story of a life. Her impact on Rolla and on Missouri is not known by a significant number of people in Rolla now, for this community is somewhat transient and it quickly fills with transplants who move on to be replaced by other transplants who have no interest in Rolla’s history.
People who have been here a long time, though, know how important Judge Mayberry was to our community.
Judge Mayberry passed away Monday, Oct. 28. She was 87. Her funeral will be Saturday afternoon.
Thanks to the Rolla Police Department, she won’t be forgotten, for one of the top awards given by the department annually at the Golden Shield Awards banquet carries her name.
Page 2 of 3 - I pray that Judge Mayberry is today with her Sweet William.
— — —
Last week a reader called me about my column regarding the prophecy of the persimmon seeds. I mentioned that I had not seen any corroborating testimony from woolly worms.
Keith Davis told me in a voicemail message that he lives south of Rolla and has seen lots and lots of woolly worms. All but one of them had a large band of brown punctuated at both ends by black. Keith said he saw only one that was all black.
Now, the question is how to interpret that information.
I have heard two elucidations.
One school of thought holds that the brown band represents the length of the winter. If it is a narrow band, making the black ends more predominant, that is supposed to mean that winter will come late, last a short time, though it might be severe, and then we’ll have an early spring. If the brown band is wide, it means wintry weather will arrive early, last a long time and hang on through March, maybe into early April.
The other school of thought says that the brown band represents the intensity of the winter. A narrow band means winter will be mild, while a wide band of brown means the season will be harsh, according to this interpretation.
So Keith’s wide-banded woolly worms could mean either that winter will be a long season or it will be an intensely cold and snowy season. Or maybe it will be a long, cold and snowy season.
That finding fits right in with the spoons and knives in the persimmon seeds and the “cold, snowy” notice on the map in The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Now don’t get mad at Keith and his woolly worms, at me and my persimmon seeds or at the weather prognosticator for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. We’re just the messengers.
You can’t fight folklore, my friends.
— — —
Don’t forget the 23rd annual benefit bluegrass show and auction Saturday at the Doolittle Firehouse.
It starts at 4 p.m. and will last until who-knows-when.
The Firehouse Gang kicks off the music at 4 p.m. There will be an auction of donated goods, show tickets and gift certificates at 5 p.m.
More bluegrass from Ozark Alliance, Clifty Creek and Harold Rowden and Friends will start at 6:30 p.m.
There will be a drawing for a queen-size double Irish chain quilt, navy and light blue, made by Noreen Daniles. Tickets for the drawing are $1 each, six for $5. The drawing will be held at 9 p.m.; you don’t have to be there to win.
Page 3 of 3 - Bring an appetite, for there will be pies, bratwurst, baked beans and soft drinks for sale.
It’s a great evening. Admission costs just $6 per person. You can’t find a concert like this for that low price.