Bob Ray Sanders

July 1, 2014

Fourth of July a very special day for one north side resident

Cowtown native prepares to celebrate 100th birthday Friday.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed.”

That quote from Proverbs 31:28 was included in a proclamation that Regina Farr Ross received from state Sen. Wendy Davis in recognition of the north side resident’s upcoming birthday.

Ross will turn 100 on the Fourth of July.

The senator is not the only important person she has heard from. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, also sent her a congratulatory message.

“As you celebrate this extraordinary milestone, we hope you reflect on the many memories you have made over the century,” the Obamas’ note said.

Ross was doing just that Monday afternoon as she sat on the porch of the home where she has lived for 73 years. Surrounded by five of her daughters and a few grandchildren, Ross talked about her long and blessed life, one that has been filled with a lot of hard work and much love.

Known as “Big Mama” to family and friends, Ross recalled the “hard times” of the Depression, and when she worked for $1 a day, often walking miles from Ninth Ward (“Stick Town”) near Samuels Avenue to Oak Hurst for jobs cleaning people’s houses.

She said she once worked for the late Green B. Trimble, for whom the Fort Worth high school is named, taking care of his two daughters. Trimble, a former principal and school board member, taught her a lot of life’s lessons, she said.

“She was ‘the Help,’ ” one of her daughters said.

In addition to being employed at American Manufacturing Co., Ross worked as a dishwasher and general helper for several restaurants, including the Pigstand drive-in, the Farmer’s Daughter and Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, where she spent 39 years before retiring at age 82.

She credits all the walking, and prayer, for her good health.

Except for the times when she gave birth to her eight children, Ross has never been hospitalized, granddaughter Gail Nelson said, pointing out that Ross is very independent — doing her own housework and some yardwork, and paying her own bills.

Although she is hard of hearing now, she indicated how good her eyesight is by saying she reads the newspaper every day, “and I don’t need glasses.”

When Ross attended Ninth Ward Elementary School, she said, it was a two-room wooden building. She graduated from I. M. Terrell High School.

For a long time Ross worked with ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, taking chartered bus trips to Washington, D.C., and New York City to campaign for lower utility bills for senior citizens.

This grandmother of 38 and great-grandmother of 60 is known throughout the community, partly for her hobbies. She collects obituaries, some from funeral programs and others clipped from the newspaper, with which she’s filled numerous scrapbooks.

“I visit the dead sometimes,” she said pointing to some framed obituaries on the wall. “I don’t get lonely.”

Whenever a storm causes a power outage, Ross’ house will be the one in the neighborhood that’s lit up because of her other hobby: collecting flashlights and lanterns.

She keeps $2 bills and often passes out signed ones (using exquisite penmanship) as gifts, with the admonition: “Keep this and you’ll never be broke.”

Ross’ husband, Otto, whom she married in 1935, died in 1964.

By the end of my visit Monday, Ross was interviewing me, wanting to know where I grew up, who my parents were, where I went to school and who were some of my teachers.

The family always has a big birthday party for Big Mama, but Friday’s celebration will be the biggest ever, they say.

Her parting message?

“I’m still here. And I’m gonna be here.”

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