Rosa Mae Perry Turns 100

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Rosa Mae Baker Perry turned 100 years old on April
3rd. An avid scrabble player, quilter, and seamstress, Rosa still manages to find time to read the Smithsonian Magazine and the National Geographic Explorer. She reflects on her long life and the traveling she has done over the years.

Rosa was born in the year 1917, just as the United States entered World War I. Her family lived on a farm in Franklin County where her father grew tobacco and cotton and a large vegetable garden for the family. Rosa was chosen from her six brothers and two other sisters as the milkmaid of the family.

Rosa and her six brothers and two sisters grew up on a farm in Franklin County. Rosa sits to the sailor’s left in the photo above.

A few years later, the Great Depression struck the country, and many children were unable to complete school. Rosa’s family couldn’t afford the textbooks she needed to finish her high school years.

Rosa’s family valued education. Her own grandmother had attended college, a rare achievement for women of that era. It wasn’t until Rosa was grown that the North Carolina governor at the time instituted a textbook rental program making books affordable to working families. Rosa decided to brave any ridicule she might face and re-enroll in high school at age 23. Three years later, Rosa graduated from high school, the oldest in her class.

Young Rosa was 26 when she graduated high school. Due to the Great Depression, Rosa was forced to delay her schooling when her family could not afford to buy textbooks. A family friend presented her with a pendant necklace at her graduation, an heirloom she still has to this day.

After graduation, Rosa took the civil service exam and accepted a position in the Pentagon in our nation’s capital to work in the Prisoners of War office during the throes of the Second World War. That’s where she met Staff Sergeant, Azzan “Mac” McKagan. Mac was a gunner in the U.S. Air Force. He had returned from the battlefield with a shoulder injury, and he was taken with the pretty young lady working in the POW office.  Rosa laughs, “The first time he asked me to marry him, I said no.” Rosa and Mac married and had a son, Michael Azzan McKagan.

Rosa Perry (R) is seen here with her good friend, Juliet Mullins. The two traveled to Washington, D.C. where Rosa began her job at the Pentagon in the Prisoners of War office during World War II.

Not long after, Mac returned to Germany to help with the reconstruction and was killed in a Jeep accident. Rosa, determined to raise her young son, returned to Zebulon where her parents still lived. There she met Herbert “Bill” Perry, who worked at the Zebulon Drug Store. They married and had two children, Gregory Herbert and Lydia Candace. They finally settled in a little house on Franklin Street to raise their young family.

Rosa married Herbert “Bill” Perry, an Army veteran whom she met in Zebulon, North Carolina. The two raised their family there in a little house on Franklin Street.

Rosa remembers fondly the times she and her family played music and sang together. “We had a little quartet,” she says. “People would come over to the house to hear us sing.” Rosa’s voice is still strong and clear. She sings the Star Spangled Banner, remembering every word. She credits her singing voice and her long life to her faith in God. “The Lord sent me here for a purpose, and I’m living within that purpose,” she says. “I tell people about the goodness and kindness of the Lord.” She quotes the words of John 3:16 and says, “That’s my belief.”

Rosa’s family and friends will celebrate her birthday with a party at Clear Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Mint Hill where Rosa currently lives.

Rosa Perry’s family includes her son, Mike McKagan, Candy Perry Heath, and Greg Perry. Also pictured is Rosa’s late husband, Herbert “Bill” Perry. Rosa has 7 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.
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Candice DuVernois
Candice DuVernois works as a freelance writer while waiting expectantly for her book deal to come through. She wrote her first poem when she was only seven years old, and she hasn't stopped dabbling since. She enjoys writing articles in a lighthearted tone about the good people of Mint Hill, always striving to make them shine. She lives in Mint Hill with her husband, Dave, and her two dogs who she tries to get into the paper as often as possible (the dogs, not Dave). Matthew 22:37-39.