By Sam Terry
The Chinese philosopher Confucius advised, “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” Over the past century, Mary Clorine Jones Lawson of Barren County has done some of each but her legacy has been documenting the past so that others might learn. At age 100, Lawson knows about the past – after all, she was born the day after America entered World War I – and what she hasn’t lived through, she’s researched and written about.
On Sunday, the people Clorine has been endowing with information gathered to celebrate her 100th birthday. In attendance were four of her five daughters – Nadine Lowe, Joanne Crawford, Marian Meredith, Martha Ford, and Leoma Copas – and many of her twelve grandchildren, twenty-eight great grandchildren, seven great-great grandchildren along with nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. A thread binding the relationships of Lawson and each individual is the history she has shared.
Always studious, Lawson began keeping a diary at age 13 and in later years wrote a booklet entitled “Memories of Childhood” in which she tells about the joys of reading, writing, school, and her family. The charming recollections weave a vivid tapestry of life growing up in Kentucky and Indiana. One of her cherished memories was learning the books of the Bible; she still has the little Bible presented by her Sunday School teacher, Nettie B. Depp, for successfully reciting the books of each testament.
The economic depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s caused Lawson’s family moved several times which also meant she attended school in numerous places. She was in Jacksonville, Florida working at her aunt’s private nursing home during her junior year of high school. The 1935-1936 school year found her back in Kentucky at Temple Hill High School where she graduated as Valedictorian of her class. In that accomplishment, Lawson set a precedent followed by each of her five daughters who achieved the same academic honor.
After high school, Lawson returned to Florida to begin secretarial school. The love letters penned by Bobby Lee Lawson back in Kentucky eventually wooed her back to the Bluegrass State where the couple was married on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1937. They were married for 60 years until his death in 1988. Today, Lawson boasts that she and her husband now have 52 descendants from their union.
At age 49, Lawson began classes to earn a Licensed Practical Nursing degree in 1966. Still the high-achieving student, Lawson completed her classes and took her state board examination for her LPN license, making the highest score to have been obtained on the test. She then became a familiar face at T.J. Samson Community Hospital where she worked until 1982.
Since her retirement, Lawson as continued researching her family and has written three family histories which have become important records of not only her life, but those of her ancestors.