Mary Hunter began working with a tutor in the 1990s and is still part of one of our book clubs. In 2016, when she was 92, she was invited to give a talk at Celebration Night. She brought small homemade gifts for everyone and gave the following speech:
I was born July 9, 1923 in Athens, Georgia. I grew up during segregation and during the Depression. All through my growing up, schools, churches, and everyplace else was segregated. Some of us didn’t know how to read or write.
My father was one of those who couldn’t read. As an adult, he learned to read and write his name, Rob. Once he learned, he wrote it everywhere—on the wall of the house, even the door of the outdoor toilet! He was so proud!
Since I was a young child, I’ve struggled with reading and writing. I can read some, but I want to be able to better understand what I’m reading and to follow instructions.
After high school, I came to New England with my younger sister and I met my late husband, John. We raised five children. After my children grew up and moved away, I started to spend my time volunteering. I just see the need, and I have an opportunity to learn things I didn’t have a chance when I was going to school. I want to learn so that I can help others.
I take lessons in piano and trumpet and belong to the Grange and Toastmasters. I joined a Book Club through Literacy Volunteers where we read wonderful stories and talk about them. I work with a tutor on writing down my stories and memories, and now I’m learning to use a computer.
And so here I am at 92 years old and I’m still struggling and learning. I haven’t given up learning yet, even though I had many setbacks in my life. Sometimes people tell me I’m too old to learn, but I try not to let it stop me. As long as the door is open and the opportunity is there, I take advantage of it and go through that door.