Lifelong Callawegian turns 100 today

Martha McCray, a lifelong Callawegian who turns 100 years old today, smiles at friend wishing her a happy birthday Friday at Presbyterian Manor. Nearly 50 people attended the birthday party that the assisted living hosted for McCray.

Martha McCray, a lifelong Callawegian who turns 100 years old today, smiles at friend wishing her a happy birthday Friday at Presbyterian Manor. Nearly 50 people attended the birthday party that the assisted living hosted for McCray. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

One hundred years ago today, Martha McCray, resident at Presbyterian Manor in Fulton, was born to Oliver and Mary Sebastian in Stephens — a town located in the northwest region of Callaway County.

She was the typical farm girl growing up, tending to the farm and chores, enjoying the outdoors and visiting with family every Sunday.

McCray attended school there in a one-room school house and eventually met the love of her life, Joe McCray. They married in 1931 and raised two children, Bill and Loretta, on their small family farm where they owned cattle, sheep and pigs and grew grains.

Loretta said her mother was an “excellent cook” who loved preparing fried chicken, country ham and vegetables picked from her garden.

“Anything you can mention she was good at cooking,” Loretta Cleveland said.

Martha was also a talented seamstress, her daughter said, and was actively involved in the Hatton Community Hall. She remembered her mother waking up at 4 a.m. to help bake doughnuts for the Hatton Oktoberfest.

While she said her mother was very loving, Loretta added her mother could be strict at times.

“My only salvation was my daddy’s lap, which I only jumped in to save my skin,” Loretta said with a laugh.

After her two children were grown and out of the house, Martha decided to attend college. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a nursing degree and worked as a licensed practical nurse at University Hospital for 25 years until she retired.

She became more involved in the Hatton community after her retirement and the passing of her husband.

Pam Oestreich, Martha’s granddauther-in-law, said a poem for the birthday girl Friday at Presbyterian Manor during a celebration of her life. The poem, titled “100 Years Strong,” reflected memories from Martha’s lifetime and highlighted what Oestreich said is Martha’s shining characteristic.

“I’ve always admired her strength whether it was something happy, something sad,” Oestreich said. “She was the backbone that held us all together.”

Martha’s great-grandson, 22-year-old Taylor Oestreich, echoed Pam Oestreich’s sentiment, saying Martha’s one of the strongest women he knows. He described her as the “perfect woman,” saying she was the one “who did everything when it came to everything.”

“She lived the life she loved and she loved the life she lived,” Taylor said.

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