1913 marked the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and celebrations were held across the nation to herald the event.
On April 1, 1913, Lonz and Pearlie Hughes Craig celebrated something even greater; the birth of their fourth child, a daughter they named Mae Eliza.
For most African Americans in 1913, however, life was hard, plain hard, with few gains to savor from the fifty years of freedom. Mae Elzia was born and raised in Craigtown, a small yet friendly community made up of mostly “kin folk”; where everybody knew everybody.
At the age of 13 she joined the Harmony Missionary Baptist Church in 1926 under the leadership of Rev. W. M. Moore. Having been a member there for over 80 years, she served faithfully and dutifully as an usher for over 60 years. She was a dedicated member of the No. 2 Sunday School class. At the time of her home going she was the oldest member of Harmony Missionary Baptist Church. She loved attending prayer meeting, bible study and helping with devotion. Those she touched and those who knew her witnessed her untiring love for God. She was a believer in “treating others, as you would have them to treat you”.
Being raised in a large family of eight in those days, education became secondary; while surviving was primary. Like so many others she had to help her mother with her siblings. Mae Eliza was smart and ingenious. She learned from the land and possessed a strong work ethic. She picked cotton, was an impeccable housekeeper, and mastered babysitting.
In raising her sibling’s cooking became second nature. She was a soul food “boiling pots” cooking type of woman. Her pound cake was an all time favorite and her homemade vanilla ice cream could chill any warm stomach. Mae Eliza had her own sense of style and fashion savvy. She didn’t really have a favorite color, but she liked all colors; and she did like red. She believed the Lord had blessed her to work with her hands and that He gifted her with a "green thumb".
In 1930, Mae Eliza married Mr. Sander King, who passed away the same year due to illness. Later she married Ulysses Harrison in 1945. Although she had no children of her own she became the wonderful and proud loving stepmother to; Herbert, Roy Neal, James Harvey and Thomas Dale Harrison, who all preceded her in her passing.
From 1945 until 1950 they lived in Manning, Arkansas and later moved back to Craigtown. The house that she recently lived in was built by Thomas and Uncle Hart.
Mae Eliza possessed an infectious smile that would chase the chill from any room. She lived life to the fullest, and there was never a dull moment when she was around. She loved to visit the sick at the nursing home with the mission, loved to sing and pray. Her greatest joy was being around family, listening to music and didn’t care much for television.
Having been one of the oldest members of her family, her home was treasure chest full of old photos, family heirlooms, “what nots”, but most of all it was the place to learn of the family history. Mae Eliza would never be caught without her scotch tape. She would tape pictures to everything and would fix anything with that scotch tape. She has every gift or the special something that anyone has ever given her. To know her was to love her. Her trademark quote was “ain't no joke about it I'm still living.
On Wednesday, August 14, 2013, at the blessed age of 100, she passed into the Lord’s embrace. Those awaiting to meet her in the presence of the Lord are her parents; her beloveds, Sander King and Ulysses Harrison; six sisters, Elizabeth Penix, Lela McIntyre, Miriah Henderson, Arline Gipson, Piralline Henderson and Versie Craig; two brothers, Ment Craig and Linnie Craig.
She leaves an abundance of love and memories to her niece and caregiver, Michelle Craig of Malvern, AR; a host of nieces and nephews whom she loved as her children; a host of other relatives, the Harmony Missionary Baptist Church family and countless friends.
Public visitation will be Tuesday, August 20, 2013 from 12 noon until 4:00 p.m. at the funeral home. The family will receive friends from 6:00 until 7:00 p.m. at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church in Sparkman, Arkansas.
The Centennial Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Harvey Goodwin will preach the message and Rev. L. A. Craig will officiate with the interment at Harmony Community Cemetery.
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