Born on a Nebraska prairie in 1923, Mellicent Mae Stalder grew up like most rural kids of her generation: Self-reliant, comfortable with hard work, not expecting the world to give her anything.
Then came the Great Depression and the death of her beloved mother when little Mel was just 7 years old. Like an oak rising from rocky soil, she became the strongest woman I’ve ever known.
Her life, if properly chronicled, would read like a great American novel.
One highlight was when she fell in love with a young Army lieutenant, Hoover Adams, from a thousand miles away. She would follow him all the way to his hometown, Dunn, North Carolina, where they would set out on their post-war adventure together, an adventure that would take them to six continents and dozens of countries.
They would have three children: Brent Adams, Maere Kay Lashmit and me. And they modeled such a great life together that we have no excuse if we don’t do likewise.
Mellicent Adams’ journey on this earth ended Sunday, when she died in the hospital in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at age 96.
She loved the beach, where she and my father had a second home since the mid 1970s, but wasn’t able to visit much in recent years. For our family, it felt providential that on the day before she was hospitalized she took her last “walk” on the beach via a wheelchair built to navigate the sand. She wore a big smile. It was a great ending to a great life.
Another highlight of her life was when she and Dad founded The Daily Record. People told them they’d never make it, and for the first few years it looked like those folks were right. Dad worked oppressively long hours. Mom was right along with him, either at the office or working from home, taking care of Brent while doing the company books, of course, by hand.
Having come along a little later, Maere Kay and I didn’t see our parents struggle the way Brent did. As a toddler, he would sleep at the paper most of the night as Mom and Dad worked. And it wasn’t long before he was doing his share, labeling newspapers for mail delivery before he was old enough to drive.
Even when Maere Kay and I were little, Mom would do the bookkeeping for the paper at home while something was on the stove or in the oven. Dad would often be late for supper, but not because he wanted to be; no one would choose to be late for one of Mom’s meals.
Life had forced her to learn to cook at a young age. Her style was more mid-western than Southern. No sweet tea on the table. But as my brother says, she had a way of making the simplest foods taste like delicacies.
She approached every facet of life with zeal. And her strength of character was always on display.
I remember being about 10 or 12 years old and going to eat at the old Howard Johnson’s in Dunn with my parents and their good friends, Graham and Margaret Henry. A lady in the next booth, a stranger from out of town, passed out. She seemed to be having a heart attack.
The lady had someone with her, but it was Mom who saw what was going on, got up, approached the people and learned that the lady had heart pills in her purse, probably nitroglycerin.
Mom quickly found the pills, held the lady’s head and fed her one, helping her to survive until the ambulance arrived. I’d long known that Mom don’t play, but that episode confirmed in my mind that she was one tough cookie, cool under pressure, unafraid to act.
Once — maybe I was in the fourth or fifth grade — Mom asked if I had done something that apparently she wanted done. I don’t remember the task now, but remember telling her then that no one had asked me to do it. She quickly told me that men who do great things in life don’t wait to be told what to do. It was a piece of wisdom that has never left me, even when I failed to live by it.
There was much wisdom she tried to instill in her children, and much love. We all count ourselves extravagantly blessed for having her as our mother.
We love her greatly, and miss her more than words can say.
Bart Adams is president of Record Publishing Company Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The family will receive visitors from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 at Skinner & Smith Funeral Home in Dunn.