On January 6, 2021 in Fort Worth, MARY MARIE (PATTERSON) BRILEY passed from this life and into the presence of her Savior, Jesus, reaching the age of 95 years, 8 months and 15 days.
Marie was born on April 22, 1925 in Halesboro, Red River County, Texas She was the youngest of seven children born to Walter Ervin Patterson and Malissie “Lissie” Carolyn (Brown) Patterson. Her older sister, Eula Mae, wanted her new sister’s name to be “Marie”, but Lissie wanted to name her new baby “Mary” after Walter’s sweet aunt Mary Jane (Brown) Compton. Lissie decided to use both choices and name her “Mary Marie” and to call her by her middle name, Marie. Even though Marie weighed 10 pounds at birth, she was the smallest of Lissie’s children and was always considered the “runt”. All of her siblings were a couple of pounds heavier than Marie at birth with the largest being 13 pounds!
Marie’s childhood and teen years were spent during the Great Depression and the severity of those economic times would forever shape her view of the world. Marie’s father, Walter, was a very poor farmer, either share-cropping or working for wages for another farmer, growing mostly cotton.
Walter, just like most of the other farmers of that day, required his children to begin working at an early age. Eula Mae, the first daughter, learned to harness and drive a mule-team at the age of 9. Homer, the second-born, was driving a wagon-team at age 10. As the children grew up, their first priority was to help their father work in the fields. The boys especially were expected to work long and hard days with their “Papa” who was very strict. If the kids did anything wrong, they got a whippin’. Like her siblings, Marie spent many, many long and hard days in the fields. From early spring until mid-summer she was chopping moisture-robbing weeds from the rows and, during harvest time (usually a period of about 6 weeks from July on, sometimes as late as November), she was bending over the short cotton plants, picking the cotton and placing the bolls in the six to ten foot-long and slender cloth sacks that included a shoulder strap allowing them to be dragged along behind. When the sack was full, each picker weighed it and recorded the weight, then emptied it and started over. Marie often recalled to her kids that her very last day of picking cotton was also her most productive day in the fields when she picked a total of 416 pounds of cotton!
Since it was so important for the children to help work the fields, education took a backseat. Schools were usually far away, transportation was difficult to come by and school-attendance was not mandatory. The result was that farm families tended to place much greater importance on finishing projects in the field as compared to educating their children; however, Lissie was burdened about the education of her children. She bought books from the children of her half-brother, Madison Garner, and, in addition to completing the exhaustive chores of the day, she made time to teach her first two children at home until the time came that they could attend a real school. As soon as Papa required their labor in the field several years later; however, he forced them to drop out of school and work in the fields full-time. Due to the demands of the farm, most of Marie’s siblings only completed 6th or 7th grade. Marie was smart and was determined to do well in school, but it wasn’t easy. She failed the 7th-grade, not because of poor grades, but due to the fact that she had too many school absences since her father required her to work in the fields so much.
Marie took every opportunity to work on her studies. While she was in high school her family began to use messy coal for heating and she was given the job of getting up first, even before her parents, and building the fire. Her parents got up a little later after the house had warmed up some; but, while she was the only person awake, Marie took that quiet opportunity to sit very near the warm stove and use the dim light and that precious time for studying for school. Through her hard work and determination, Marie became the first and only member of her immediate family to complete high school, graduating with the 1943 class of Seymour High School.
Through these and many other struggles in her early life, Marie learned early to appreciate the blessings that came her way and to thoughtfully plan for the very real possibility of adversity.
Employment was difficult to find in Baylor County in the early 40’s, so, three days following her graduation from high school, Marie moved to Houston with her cousin, Ruth Robertson and they found work in a factory with the help of extended family members. She later moved to Fort Worth and worked at Montgomery Ward on Seventh Street. Her work-station was on the 8th floor of the building that is now “Montgomery Plaza” and she vividly remembered the 1949 flood that caused the Trinity River to overflow and flood the area, bringing enough water to rise to the 3rd floor of that building.
Marie made many friends during those early years in Ft. Worth and it was there that she met and dated Joe Travis Briley (called “Travis” by his family and by Marie). They married on June 29, 1951 in Fort Worth and in the following years had two children, Donna Kay and Monty Joe.
Early in her marriage, Marie worked, but soon chose to be a full-time mother to her children until they were both in school. About 1965 she re-entered the work force as a stenographer and a Dictaphone operator in the claims department of International Service Life Insurance Co. in Fort Worth and she remained employed there for many years, retiring in 1981. A Dictaphone was a bulky voice-recording machine that was used by Service Life’s claims adjusters as they verbally dictated letters and communications. Until 1947 Dictaphone machines relied on wax-cylinders for recording but, by the time Marie was using them, the wax cylinder had been replaced by a flexible, lightweight, cylindrical, Lexan “Dictabelt”. The claims adjuster attached one of the “belts” onto the Dictaphone and as he or she spoke into the machine’s microphone, an audio recording was cut into one of the Lexan belts. The belt was then removed and given to one of the Dictaphone operators (or typists). Marie would then attach that belt to another machine which played the recordings back. The Dictaphone operator wore headphones to hear the recording and she typed up the dictation as she utilized a foot-pedal to start, stop and repeat the audio playback to match her typing speed.
As Travis entered the Navy and then the working-world, he began to be called “Joe” by everyone except his family. On several occasions through the years, people would hear Marie talking about “Travis” and would wonder who this “other” man was. Once, a young lady in the church who only knew Mr. Briley as “Joe”, overheard Marie talking about “going out to dinner with Travis”. The girl lamented to her mom later that she was worried that Marie was having an affair. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, of course, as Joe and Marie celebrated 69 years of marriage this past June.
Marie’s mother, Lissie, was an amazingly long-suffering and patient Christian woman and was a great influence in Marie’s life. Marie observed her mother’s humble and submissive spirit that finally influenced Walter to stop drinking and to ultimately turn to God. Lissie read her Bible every day while churning butter, then prayed aloud, the only way she knew how.
Probably because she always prayed aloud, Lissie regularly sought out a solitary place where she could get away from everyone and pray to God, even if it was not the most desirable location. One such location was their outhouse. Lissie would take the broom and a pan of water to clean the outhouse, but when she was finished, she stayed and prayed. The kids knew not to bother her during that time. At another house, her “quiet spot” was in a nearby grove of trees. She would regularly go out there and sit down and pray. If she stayed gone a long time, Dorothy (Marie’s sister) or Marie would go and see if she was alright. Dorothy remembered that some of Lissie’s other favorite prayer locations, depending on where they were living at the time, were the pasture or in the corn-room of the barn. She also prayed audibly each night beside her children’s beds before they went to sleep. Joyce (another dear sister), Dorothy and Marie (who all slept in the same bed) would sit on the floor near their mom and would listen quietly to her prayers–they knew to be quiet and still. Those prayer times by their bed were not just for show, either! Lissie really prayed for each of her children by name–and with seven children, that took a while!
Lissie always tried to attend church, even if she had to walk, and Marie accompanied her most of the time. In 1937, while the family lived in Red Springs, Texas, Marie became a Christian at the age of 12 during a large outdoor tent revival. Lissie sang on the stage during church services and during revivals. Marie believes that her sister Joyce was saved a few weeks earlier. The small Red Springs Baptist Church didn’t have a baptistery, so a baptism was arranged a little later in nearby Seymour (at the same time as Joyce). Through her younger years Marie remained an active member of the Red Springs Baptist Church until she and her cousin, Ruth Robertson, moved to Houston in 1943. While in Houston, Marie, Ruth and Ruth’s three sisters, Mary, Gussie and Eudora attended worship every Sunday in the First Baptist Church of Houston.
Marie remained a faithful Christian her entire life. The church was always a central part of Marie and Joe’s life. For many decades their church was the source of most of the couple’s friendships and the venue of their service to God and others. They were always faithful in following the biblical principle of tithing (giving their local church at least 10% of all their earnings). While in the Fort Worth area they were members of James Avenue Baptist Church (1952 to 1963), Oak Grove Baptist Church in Burleson (1963 to 1964) and Garden Acres Baptist Church (1964 to 1985). In 1985 Joe & Marie moved to Waco, Texas where Joe had accepted a job. They chose to live in the nearby community of Hewitt, Texas, south of Waco and to begin a new life there. They soon joined the First Baptist Church of Hewitt and were faithful members there until a couple of years ago when Marie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they moved back to Fort Worth to be nearer their son.
At each of their churches, Marie served in a variety of ways. She sang in the choir, taught children in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, served on church committees, and served food to the bereaved families whenever needed. As the wife of a deacon, Marie helped Joe to provide leadership and a Godly example to each church of which they were members.
In addition to serving in the church, Marie also found ways to volunteer in the community. In the years immediately following their retirements, Joe and Marie enjoyed serving with the Volunteer Christian Builders organization, as they lived in their RV for weeks at a time while donating their time and labor to help construct much-needed church buildings in and around Texas. Their presence on the grounds of those far-away churches not only helped those congregations get new buildings at a tremendous savings, but Joe and Marie were also a great encouragement to the local members they met. At other times, Joe and Marie traveled in the RV to enjoy camping, fishing and spending time with family, especially their grandkids. Later Marie faithfully served with Joe one day each week for 17 and a half years as volunteers with Meals-on-Wheels! We estimate that they probably delivered over 17,000 meals during that time! Along with those meals, Joe and Marie also frequently gave an encouraging word or a much-need hug to the recipient. Marie was a decades-long breast cancer-survivor and through the years she knitted and donated countless hats to the local hospitals of Waco who distributed those hats to cancer patients.
Marie was always a faithful wife and a diligent caretaker of her children, and later doted on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her hobbies were chosen, not simply because she enjoyed them or to fill idle time, but primarily due to the benefit that they brought to those around her. She sewed dresses for Donna Kay, shirts for Monty and later she made clothing, dolls and blankets for her grandchildren. She also crocheted, cross-stitched and painted useful and decorative items. For many of their Fort Worth years, Joe and Marie spent their evenings and part of the weekends diligently caring for an exceptionally large garden (about 10,000 sf) which provided the family with a tremendous supply of inexpensive and delicious vegetables, fruits and berries, not all of which were fully appreciated by their children at the time. Each year they would harvest the produce and use it in their meal preparation. The large excess that they did not eat right away was either shared with others or carefully canned or frozen to be enjoyed throughout the year. Due in great part to her memories of her family nearly starving through the terrible Great Depression, Marie was a famously frugal shopper, never spending extravagantly. She was a recycler and a re-user before it was cool. She threw away very little. She was always well-aware of the current sales and coupons. She was all-business when she was shopping! Her cupboards and her freezers were always stocked with food for her family and guests—all bought at a bargain, of course! Every school morning, she made the kids a sack lunch to save money. She always bought day-old loaves of bread 10 for a dollar and froze them. She really was a Proverbs 31 woman.
Both growing up in farm families, Marie and Joe always loved sitting on the back porch for hours, talking and watching the animals that visited their yards, watching the weather closely and observing the wonders of God’s nature. In her last years, Marie enjoyed reading fiction and working jigsaw puzzles.
Of the six children of Walter and Lissie Patterson who lived into adulthood, five of those suffered from some form of dementia and three of those, including Marie, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We were grateful that Marie’s diagnosis came extremely late in her life (at 94 years of age), but even with Alzheimer’s, Marie managed to recognize her immediate family members until the last few months of her life. Even into her 90’s,
Marie could recall many of the dates and the minute details from her family’s history, delighting her son, the family genealogist.
For many, many reasons, Marie will be sorely missed by her family and close friends. We praise God that she is now healed from the cruel Alzheimer’s disease, from the recurring infections and from the Covid disease that ravaged her body. We are so very sad that she is gone from us, but we rejoice in the fact that she is now whole and that she is with her family in Christ! We also rejoice that we, who have also trusted Christ, will see her again one day!!
Marie was preceded in death by her parents, Walter and Lissie; three sisters and three brothers, Eula Mae (Patterson) Puckett Wright (1907-2002), Odessa, TX, Homer Donald Patterson (1909-1996) Midland, TX, James Leonard Patterson (1913-2005), Boyd TX, previously of Newark, TX, Walter Elmer “Boog” Patterson (1917-1945), who was killed in Germany during the one of the decisive final battles of WWII. Marie always had a tender heart when remembering the selfless sacrifice of this dear brother, Joyce Evelyn (Patterson) Hailey (1919- 2009), Mansfield,Texas, Dorothy Faye (Patterson) Bailey Gledhill (1922-2015), Colorado, at almost 96, Marie outlived a host of other family and friends.
Marie is survived by her husband, Joe Travis Briley of Fort Worth (formerly of Waco); daughter, Donna Kay Freels (husband, Richard) of Clifton, Tx; son, Monty Joe Briley (wife, Debra) of Fort Worth; grandchildren, Jodi Lynn Allen of Clifton; Kimberly Renee Briley, Matthew Joseph Briley (wife, Nikki) and Autumn Elizabeth Briley (partner, Drew Dikes), all of Fort Worth; great-grandchildren, Briley Jaren Allen of Whitney, Mathias Jay Briley, Manny John Briley, Naomi Rose Briley and Declan Kade Dikes, all of Fort Worth.
We are grateful to the many, many people who cared for Mama during the final 15 months of her life, Jessie, Jona, Mesha, Nicole, Pamela, Tametra, Vanessa and the other wonderful folks at Brookdale Westover Hills memory care who were “family” to her (and to us!); Dr. Quang Le and his fabulous team at River Park Medical; the selfless and talented employees at Courtyards at River Park, Garden Terrace at Fort Worth Alzheimer’s Care as well as Trail Lake Nursing and Rehab; the doctors, nurses and aides at Texas Health (“Harris downtown”); the doctors and nurses in the ER and in the Covid ward at Baylor Scott and White Hospital.