Mary Margarette (Forman) Partin, Morehead native, died Thursday, May 21 at the Spartanburg, SC, home of her daughter. She was 88.
Mrs. Partin brought national attention to Morehead in 1951 when she was one of only seven high school seniors in the U.S. to earn the first and only Future Homemakers of America National Degree. The degree was so difficult to achieve that it was never offered again. And that was without considering the obstacles the daughter of Oddie and Sena Forman faced. The Formans, including her younger brother Walter, lived in the remote Paragon community on Lower Lick Fork. To get to town, it wasn’t unusual to use creek beds as roads, and Clack Mountain was a formidable barrier.
School teachers came and went without finishing full years, books for some grades were not available, so Margarette’s attempt to be an elementary student was almost comical – skipping grades, repeating grades and being double promoted. When it came time for high school, her parents held her back so that she and her brother could go together. Margarette and Walter lived with their grandfather, Walter Skaggs, on Clearfield Hill so they could walk to Morehead High, then located on the western edge of Morehead State College property.
The National FHA Degree had religious and even international components, and growing up with no church and only visiting preachers made satisfying the requirements daunting. Morehead High School Home Economics teacher Virginia Rice guided her pupil to find creative solutions, and the result was a $100 scholarship and a trip to the University of Michigan for the FHA national meeting. But first, Mrs. Rice had to pay a visit to a strong-willed Mr. Forman to tell him his daughter had to go!
The teacher and student became friends for life, and young Margarette took the train and left Kentucky for the first time. (Unless one counts sneaking away from a state Beta Club meeting with Walter and a few others to hurry across a Louisville bridge and immediately back just so they could say they had been to Indiana!)
The Courier Journal and Morehead News wrote news briefs about the honor and promised feature stories. The family still waits. Making up for that was a letter from a Morehead boy stationed in Europe, who told her he had seen her picture and read the news in The Stars and Stripes.
Margarette attended MSC one year, then taught at one-room schools in Craney Creek (Rowan County) and Carey, a mining camp in Bell County. She married Bell County native Foley Partin on Dec. 20, 1952, and they made homes in Pineville, Ky., and Wayne, MI, while he studied to be an X-ray technician. Later they lived in Middlesboro, Ky., Elizabethton, Tenn., and Morehead. While he studied to be a teacher, both worked at a very new St. Claire Medical Center, she as a ward clerk with expanded duties. With the family making less than minimum wage, she supplemented the family income by selling World Book Encyclopedias. She left St. Claire to help with preparations for the new Life Care Center nursing home then returned to St. Claire. She and Evelyn Tucker worked the first hospital fund drive making phone calls, writing letters, and following up with potential donors. She would go on to be a St. Claire volunteer as long as she was able.
Margarette was among the first Expanded Foods and Nutrition Educational Program assistants hired by the Cooperative Extension Service. She remained until the program ended, visiting homes of all socio-economic levels and teaching balanced diets and budgeting. She even shared her passion for sewing with clients.
Margarette joined the Painted Hills Garden Club to learn about plants, and was happily surprised to be asked to teach some lessons about nature. She loved the outdoors, whether chopping and hauling weeds or sitting on the porch with a book and a mug of tea, watching her greedy hummingbirds. When strangers knocked at her door, she had them sit on her porch swing with a cold drink and sandwich while she filled a bag with groceries, something homemade, and Baptist literature with an uplifting message.(Isaiah 58:10) She was highly patriotic, proud that her kin had fought in every war (and both sides of the Civil War). She loved hardware stores and had triple pierced ears. She sang off key but danced to the beat. She could put together a homecooked meal faster than most people can decide where to eat. She would make more biscuits and cornbread than one family should eat and her family would eat them all. She didn’t do mornings, except for Sundays, and was a faithful and active member of First Baptist, Morehead, especially loving the parade of babies who came through the nursery over the years. She loved knowing birthdays. Given 30 minutes with any stranger, she could determine how they were related. She enjoyed crosswords, adored games with prizes and contests, and took it personally that she never won the Publisher’s Clearing House. She was an avid reader with an immense vocabulary and even toward the end of the dementia that took her life would pipe up with just the right word.
She adored flowers and admitted the “in lieu of’ portion of obituaries bothered her. The family suggests that in her memory, friends share cuttings, starters, bulbs and seeds with friends and neighbors – and make sure you know their birthdays.
Two days before her death, she fell into a coma. It was the fourth anniversary of her brother’s passing.
Surviving are her daughters, Becky (Mike) Fairchild, Independence, Ky.; and Kathy (Bob) Dalton, Spartanburg, SC; grandchildren Jason (Dawn) Caudill, Edgewood, Ky.; Jennifer (Ron) Doyle, Covington, Ky.; and Delaney Dalton, Spartanburg, SC; and four great-grandchildren, Ashley and Whitney Collins, and Brianna and Andrew Davidson, all of Covington.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the immediate family is having a private graveside service in the New Alfrey Cemetery with the Rev. Alex Lockridge officiating and will not be present at the public viewing 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at The Michael R. Gray Funeral Home in Morehead. A memorial is being planned for a later date.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary Margarette (Forman) Partin, please visit our floral store.