Your Neighbor: Meet Mary Lou Reavis Miller

Published 12:05 am Thursday, December 2, 2021

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By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Mary Lou Reavis Miller will be celebrating her 99th birthday on Feb. 12. As one of Clemmons’ longest residents, Miller, who is better known as Mama Lou, reflects on the many memories and connections that have made it home to her and her family.

“Growing up as the second oldest of five children, things were much different then during that time then they are now,” reflects Miller. “We lived on a big farm in Yadkin County. My grandparents also had a home on the farm. My aunts and uncles were farmers too. Everything that we ate we raised on our farm. There were only three items (coffee, sugar, and salt) that we needed to buy from the store that I would walk to every week carrying eggs to trade. My uncle owned the store that I walked to, and he would always tempt me buy a piece of candy,” laughs Miller. “I never wanted to spend any of my parents’ money so I never would buy it.” Miller’s family farm had an extensive garden that grew strawberries, peaches, plums and many types of vegetables like corn. “We didn’t have a refrigerator back then so we would use the springs and creeks to preserve some items,” notes Miller. Aside from providing food for the family, Miller’s farm would sell their crops for profit. “Our primary crop was tobacco. We would sell other items like milk, butter and eggs, but tobacco was the main focus for helping provide for our family for things like clothing,” explains Miller.

When Miller wasn’t helping tend to her family’s farm, she was going to church every Sunday or regularly attending school. “Our church was located conveniently on the corner of our farm. We would take our buggy to church. However, for school I would walk a mile to get on the bus to attend,” notes Miller. “I never missed one day of school. I had the best teachers and can still remember all of their names. My classmates were often related to me or were neighbors.” The importance of education was instilled in her at a young age. “My father’s sister, Rebecca, taught school for 52 years. She would come home every summer and help on the farm,” says Miller. She didn’t hesitate to attend college when given the opportunity. “I went to Lees McRae College and got my degree in education,” says Miller. “I wanted to teach second grade.”

However, when Miller first headed home, she reconnected with John K. Miller, “JK,” whom she had known from her childhood. “We ran into each other, and he told me he wanted to marry me,” recalls Mary Lou of her future husband. Mary Lou and JK were married in June of 1943. “Our first child was born up in Washington, D.C., where we resided for a little under two years due to JK’s job in the Navy,” explains Miller. “I still love Washington, D.C., from my time up there.”

Mary Lou and JK moved back to the Winston-Salem area to raise their expanding family. “I taught second grade and was taking care of our daughter. I also helped with running the farm including milking our 12 cows,” remembers Miller. She added four more children to their family during the next 12 years. Throughout that time, Miller held several jobs outside of the home. “When the children were in school, I would sell real estate. I knew that I wanted them to all go to college like I had, so ensuring that we could afford to send them was a priority to me,” says Miller.

Miller instilled in her children the same appreciation for church. “We began going to Clemmons Baptist in 1963. We were very involved and went every Sunday,” says a founding member of the quilting ministry. “JK was a deacon at the church too.”

As Miller’s children got older, they began to have families of their own too. “I have 12 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren,” says a proud Miller. Her husband passed in April 2004, but she continued making cherished making memories with the new generation of her family. “Family is everything, and I am so grateful to still be a part of their lives,” acknowledges Miller. “I enjoy getting to live in the home that I raised my own children in too. Up until recently I would even mow all 23 acres of my property.”

The entrepreneur and family woman, Miller continues to work as the Workshop Village manager and owner. “I like working,” notes Miller who has always been accustomed to pitching in when and where it’s needed. If Miller is not managing her real estate ventures, she is often seen on Ramada Drive picking up litter that has accumulated. “There is a sense of accomplishment from doing your part. I will always feel compelled to do mine,” remarks Miller.