Story: Green tea, ice cream sandwiches and Bertie Mae

  • This is the third story in a series of hopefully many from men and women about the influential women in their lives as part of March’s ‘Women in History Month.’
Bertie Mae Garrett

EASTMAN,GEORGIA: God broke the mold when He made Bertie Mae Garrett of Eastman. Those that knew her loved her, but that didn’t necessarily mean they liked her or didn’t like her. She was just “that” type of woman.

Words to describe her would be determined, self-sufficient, strong but sensitive, obstinate but cooperative, a planner, courageous and brave. Mrs. Bertie Mae didn’t have the word ‘no’ in her vocabulary, and tended to be a bit bossy at times. Bertie Mae Garrett knew how to get things done.

Two weeks before she died in a hospice home, at the age of 94 in 2011, Mrs. Bertie Mae, had turned around in the parking lot of the Dodge County Hospital where she was a member of the Pink Lady Auxiliary and fell and had a stroke they say. She had dealt with Parkinson’s Disease and other ailments one of her age would have.

That was Mrs. Bertie Mae. Always on the go, and reminiscent of the little pink Energizer Battery Bunny, she never stopped living. One time she told me, “Change happens, but that doesn’t mean you stop living.” Mrs. Bertie Mae struggled with Parkinson’s Disease and other ailments one her age would have.

An educator for more than four decades, she went into the Peace Corps as an adult to volunteer after her husband passed, and was a volunteer missionary in more than 40 countries. She wrote two books, and probably had a lot more in her to tell.

Mrs. Bertie Mae was a philanthropist – helping those in need, even those who weren’t classified as ‘poor.’

Things didn’t matter to Mrs. Bertie Mae though. It was her purpose in life, she said to serve. One of her favorite quotes was “Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy.” And as a devoted Christian who was so in love with Jesus (whom she called her ‘Jewish partner.’), Mrs. Bertie Mae stayed true as she could to that mission.

I met her because of a connection to my parents and grandparents – my grandpa was her pastor. She taught my dad, my uncle, my mom and aunts, in high school.

Her house was an adventure in itself – with it is odd design and secret rooms full of books and stuff from her escapades from around the world.

When I moved into her community as an adult, to work at a newspaper, I spent a lot of time with her, and Mrs. Bertie Mae never wasted a moment offering her wisdom and cups of green tea and ice cream sandwiches.

Mrs. Bertie Mae used to tell me when I would come to her and vent about my problems. I would complain and ask why it seemed like I was always having the same issues on the jobs I had, with relationships, my weight and my finances?

She would say something to this effect. “Becky, maybe the reason your circumstances are not being changed is because God is trying to change your heart.”

It was only natural that she become my mentor, the Yoda to my Princess Leia.

Bertie Mae on one of her many missionary journeys.

(c)BLHOLLAND2020/Story Written by Becky Holland
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