Mary Brister lived a beautiful life
I arrived to work early one morning to find a little lady with a big smile waiting for me.
She didn’t get her paper in the mail, and she wanted one. That was six years ago, and I was new at The Yazoo Herald, so it was the first time I met Mrs. Mary Brister who passed away last week at the age of 96.
I didn’t realize how significant that meeting was at the time, but I came to know her as a very special person. She often visited the paper, and I began to use her as a resource for historical information at times.
She had a way of explaining things that appealed to a newspaper editor looking for details that were sometimes complicated to be explained in a simple matter so that I could make it clear for our readers. Perhaps that came from her many years as a kindergarten teacher. There is no telling how many people’s lives she touched in Yazoo City.
She organized a kindergarten that met in her home for several years before being named the first teacher of the kindergarten program at First Presbyterian Church, where she taught for 18 years.
A lifelong Yazooan, she was a stanger to no one. She was one of those people who had the gift of being able to make anyone feel as if they were speaking to an old friend on the first meeting. She was just as loving to animals, taking in dozens of stray dogs and cats over the years.
She was active in our community throughout her life. She was a lifelong member of Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the founding members of Yazoo’s Junior Auxiliary chapter in 1957 and taught hundreds of Yazoo children over the years. She loved to play the piano, sing and plant flowers, but more than anything she loved to visit with friends. Her kitchen table served as a meeting place for decades.
Mrs. Brister’s family described her legacy as one of kindness - a kindness that knew no race, color or creed. That may have been the most important lesson the veteran teacher had to share.
One of my favorite memories of Mrs. Brister was shortly after my wife Jamie came to work for The Yazoo Herald. Mrs. Brister called one day and said she had a story idea she wanted to share. I guess she knew Jamie would be better suited for the story because she bypassed me entirely. Jamie said that Mrs. Brister had called her about a story, and I told her that it had to be something interesting.
Jamie met Mrs. Mary at her house and Mrs. Mary drove her all over town. She was about 90 at the time.
The purpose of the drive was to show Jamie all of the wildflowers that were popping up around the city and providing natural beauty. She was concerned that too many people weren’t taking the time to notice and appreciate such beauty these days.
I was one of the people who didn’t always notice, but I have ever since.
And I’m grateful for the chance to spend some time with Mrs. Mary Brister, who taught me how to see some of the beautiful things that might have otherwise gone unnoticed right under my nose.
And each year when spring comes and those flowers return, I will be reminded of her beautiful life.