A mother’s love for all to share

Published 12:41 am Sunday, May 8, 2011

Etta Mae Cuthrell (right) at home with her daughter Helen Cuthrell-Martin, son-in-law Bill Martin (standing), and son Ernie Cuthrell. For her selection as Washington Daily News Mother of the Year, Etta Mae Cuthrell was presented with a floral arrangement courtesy Piggly Wiggly. (WDN Photo/Jurgen Boerema)

FAIRFIELD – In honor of Mother’s Day and mothers everywhere, Etta Mae Cuthrell is the Washington Daily News Mother of the Year.

Cuthrell was one of 15 nominees for the title, which came with a bouquet of flowers.

The nominations were made by family members and others.

Cuthrell was chosen to be Mother of the Year by a panel of Daily News employees.

Most of her 82 years have been spent in service to others.

“She has served as a caregiver for the elderly, Sunday school teacher for the young, coach for the grandchildren, and a good neighbor for all,” reads a nomination letter from her daughter Helen Cuthrell Martin.

Martin’s letter mentions seven first cousins who lived across the road from her house when she grew up. Their father died at a young age and their mother was hospitalized from time to time. Etta Mae Cuthrell took the cousins into the Cuthrell home and helped them as they grew up.

So, Martin says, “today we share our mama with our cousins and say that we are a family of 13 children.”

Several times each week, the school bus stops at her house and a great-granddaughter and a great-grandson get off the bus to stay with her until their mother comes home from work. They know that “granny” will have a snack ready for them.

“Her life has been in this community, helping people who were sick, people who needed someone to stay with them at night. That’s been her thing, taking care of people, her parents, her in-laws, and neighbors,” Martin said recently in a interview at Cuthrell’s home.

More recently, Cuthrell cared for her husband, who passed away in May 2009. They worked for many years on a farm that they developed together. They grew corn, cucumbers, soybeans, and cotton. They were also hog farmers for a while.

Cuthrell was known from Manteo to Virginia Beach because she milked two cows by hand every morning and every night. People would come from all around to get a pint of cream. This was an opportunity for friendships to develop. People would come to get milk and cream, but would stay to visit and share a meal.

“Her life was spent in this area, she did not work out in the public,” Martin said.

Cuthrell’s children were always well taken care of and “given a hot breakfast each morning, and had to make sure that their homework was done and that they were dressed up and ready to go to school.”

They were also expected to be on their best behavior.

Martin mentioned that she and her siblings did not participate in many school activities due to lack of good transportation to get them the 22 miles to school. However, she and her mother worked together on “4-H dress revues.” This involved crafting a dress and showing it in a county competition.

Cuthrell mentioned another special incident which demonstrates her mother’s caring spirit.

One year before Christmas, a group of young people came to sing Christmas Carols. She knew they were coming, so they had a basket of large navel oranges all ready to pass out after the singing. As she was passing out the oranges, one little fellow in the back of the group asked, “Aunt Etta Mae, do you have any biscuits?”  Cuthrell couldn’t hear so an older child asked a little louder, “Aunt Etta Mae, Pacman wants to know if you have any biscuits?” Cuthrell stated that she did have biscuits and went into the kitchen and brought out a plate of biscuits. The children all left with a biscuit and a navel orange.

Cuthrell’s cooking is popular, and family and friends often stop by for a biscuit with ham, bacon, or sausage to go along with good conversation. She also cans and freezes food to share with friends and neighbors.

Etta Mae Cuthrell still lives on her farm, which is tended by someone, and continues to visit people who need her help in the community.