Fort Worth

After more than a century of Independence Days, Regina 'Big Mama' Ross, has died

Regina Farr Ross
Regina Farr Ross Courtesy

Regina Farr Ross left behind some of her longevity secrets before she died in her home last week.

Mrs. Ross, 103, almost always cooked and almost never had fast food.

"She didn't know what fast food was," said Gail Nelson, her 55-year-old granddaughter. "We had tacos one night and she called them tacas."

Mrs. Ross -- friends and relatives called her "big Mama" -- took medicine for her high blood pressure, but was otherwise healthy and used no other medications, worked until she was 82 and continued to putter around her house and yard until the very end, Nelson said.

"She slowed down a little bit when she reached 101," Nelson said. "The only thing that was kind of leaving her was her hearing. She didn't use a hearing aid, but we had to get a little closer to be able to talk to her."

Mrs. Ross was born on the Fourth of July in 1914 to Robert and Mary King Farr in Stick Town, a Fort Worth neighborhood that includes an area surrounding First Street near downtown. She died Wednesday at home.

"If she was sick, we didn't know about it," Nelson said. "She laid her head back and she was just gone. We figured her heart stopped."

Mrs. 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.

Mrs. Ross attended Ninth Ward Elementary School when it was a two-room wooden building and graduated from I. M. Terrell High School.

Mrs. Ross also 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.

She spent some of her time on the East Coast visiting relatives serving in the military, Nelson said.

"She worked for a dollar a day and sometimes 50 cents," Nelson said. "She would give out $2 bills to everyone in the family. She would sign them and say as long as you keep this you will never be broke."

In 1935, she married Otto Ross, who died in 1964, and she had eight children, 38 grandchildren and 60 great-grandchildren. A number of great-great-grandchildren have been born, but Nelson said she is not sure how many.

Mrs. Ross knew everyone in the community and preferred holding fort on her front porch rather than on Facebook, Nelson said. The family always had big celebrations on July Fourth to coincide with Mrs. Ross' birthday, Nelson said.

"There would be six generations of family there," Nelson said. "It's a tradition we plan to keep."

Former state Sen. Wendy Davis issued a proclamation to celebrate Mrs. Ross' 100th birthday and President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, sent her a congratulatory message.

She lived to see 17 presidential administrations come and go and lived to see the first African-American president, something she believed would never happen in her lifetime, Nelson said.

"When she turned 100 she said then that 'I don't mind going home,'" Nelson said. "'I'm going to let God do the rest.'"

Funeral service is at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pilgrim Valley Baptist Church. A wake is from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Wesley Chapel AME Church.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3