Mary Oats was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the daughter of Mary and Eddie Jackson. She was one of 14 children. Her mother passed away when she was only nine. Her dad successfully raised all fourteen children while working as a janitor at Louisiana Delta Junior College. He also worked at the airport.
Mary went to school at Booker T. Washington in Monroe, and then went one year to Monroe High School. After leaving school she got her first job at Ben Wright Clinic in Monroe as an elevator operator. She was seventeen at the time.
This was the year she was struck with rheumatic fever. Her left leg swelled up terribly and she was crippled, unable to walk so she was sent to the hospital. She had never been to a hospital before and was scared to death. They wheeled her into an examining room and the doctor stuck a huge needle into her leg. The pain was excruciating, and terrifying but he drew off several ounces of fluid from her leg and it began to feel a lot better.
The doctor thought she might never walk again, but she got well and not only walked again but was even able to go back to playing basketball again.
Mary came to Seminole in about 1953. She had a brother living here at the time. When asked about her first thoughts of Seminole she said, "No trees, lots of sand and dry!"
Seminole was in the midst of a stifling drought at the time and the sandstorms were terrible. When the first storm struck she held her hand over her mouth and nose gasping for air and said she thought she was going to die. Her brother laughed at her and told her she wasn't going to die.
Her brother, George Jackson, worked at Jo's Cafe on South Main Street, owned by A.B. and Jo Teller. The Tellers had a little baby and Jo needed someone to take care of her baby while she worked at the cafe, so Mary took the job.
Mary worked there for about two years and then she married McKinley Oats. He worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for about 40 years. In 1973 Mary went to work as an aide at the old hospital, where the library is, now. When they moved to the new hospital she was given a job in housekeeping. After about six months she became Housekeeping Supervisor working for Rollies Janitorial Contractors who were contracting the housekeeping at the hospital. It was a job she didn't particularly want at the time, but one she changed her mind about and stayed with for a lot of years.
Mary had six children. Her oldest son, Larry Jackson lives here with her. He is disabled having suffered a brain aneurysm, and brain surgery. Mary retired from the hospital in January 2014 so she could stay at home and take care of Larry. She believes she sees some improvement in his condition. She continues to pray for his recovery.
Her eldest daughter, Brenda Boykins and her husband Roger live in Houston where she works for NASA. Roger is in the United States Army Reserves.
Sadly, Mary's next daughter, Gwedlin Gail, is deceased. She used to work at Seminole Memorial Hospital.
Mary Belinda and her husband Ricky Tillmon live in Lubbock where Belinda is a teacher at Rice Academy.
The fifth child, McKinley Ray, lives in Seminole and works in the oil field. And her youngest daughter, Consue (Connie) Oats lives in Seminole and works as a teacher's aid at the junior high school.
All of Mary's children went to school in Seminole and all of them but Ray graduated. When Ray saw Connie was about to graduate he hurried and got his GED before she did.
Larry was a good athlete in all sports and had a suitcase full of trophies. Gwen wrote poetry and had several poems published nationally. She went to West Texas State University, (now West Texas A&M University). Belinda went to college at Lubbock Christian University, and Brenda went to West Texas A&M University.
Mary has nine grandkids and one great-grand baby.
The Oat's are members of Trinity Baptist Church where Mary sings special songs each Sunday. Her daughter, Connie, plays the piano. Mary has been singing since she was nine-years-old. She has a natural talent for it.
She said, "My husband, McKinley, was a minister and the family was his Choir." McKinley preached in Seminole at the True Light Baptist Church and at Hobbs and Carlsbad, New Mexico at the New Jerusalem Baptist Church. Unfortunately, McKinley passed away several years ago.
Mary said they bought a piano for their oldest daughter, and the youngest, Connie, taught herself to play it. She would say, "Mama, sing Amazing Grace" She would ask again and again until she got to where she could play it on the piano.
Mary has enjoyed her life in Seminole. She said, "God has been good. As long as I've got the Lord on my side, that's all that matters." She said she hasn't encountered any racial prejudice problems in Seminole.
She said after her mother died she learned how to survive. "I learned to depend on the Lord -- just trust in Him."
Two things Mary enjoys most are singing and traveling. One thing she liked about her job as Supervisor of Housekeeping was she has gotten to go to so many places to learn about her job. She went to conventions in Tennessee, Las Vegas, and Reno, Nevada, and Austin.
She remembered a convention in Austin when she stayed in a hotel across the street from the football stadium. They told her, "Don't go down 6th Street because it is so dangerous." But this advice was too late, they had already taken a stroll down 6th Street. She got to go see the Alamo on this trip.
She was Supervisor of Housekeeping at Seminole Memorial Hospital for 41 years, from 1973 to 2014. During this time she went for training at Odessa College, San Angelo, Midland, Monahans, and Snyder, El Paso and other places. She said, "I had good teachers, and 'if you don't go you don't grow.'"
Mary asked the people at the convention why they didn't hold one in Odessa, and they told her they didn't think we had running water out here. She told them we did, and convinced them to hold the next one in Odessa. She attended a three day convention at the new hotel in Odessa. They were impressed with this country.
Mary has a box full of no less than 46 certificates of achievement she has received from her conventions and training sessions, including a Certificate of Training Excellence from "OSHA and The Medical Industry: A Compliance Update." It states, "This document is proof of the undersigned's superior training accomplishment. By attending the Keye Productivity Center seminar. The undersigned has completed six hours of intensive training and is entitled to all rights and privileges related to or resulting from the completion of the aforementioned course.
"God has really blessed me and I wanted to give Seminole (Memorial) Hospital the best I can," she said.
Her job entailed her seeing after the cleaning, schedules, and chemicals. She had to teach the new hands how to do everything, and inspected to make sure everything was done right. "I loved what I was doing," she said.
In her love of traveling she has gotten to go to Disney World twice. Once she went with her granddaughter, Christa Rene Oats, and once when the National Executive Housekeeping people sent her to Florida and allowed her enough time to visit Disney World. She said, "Life is good to me."
Since retiring, her plans for the future are to take care of Larry, visit with friends and do some more traveling. She wants to enjoy life.
Asked for a message for the people of Seminole, she said. "Do the best you can, be sure you are giving your best. In life you do what you want to do."
She said she hopes she has given her kids a tool to live by, "to do your best and trust in the Lord."