On August 15, 1942 a beautiful spirit known as Mary Osby Kellum came into this world in Timpson Texas, to Edmond Osby and Mable (Wilson) Osby. Mary was the fifth of six children. Her siblings, Lemond, Raymond (Earnestine), Norris (Delores), Velma Ray, and Durl (Helen) and close family members often referred to her as Mary Sue or Sue. She did not care for her middle name at all and later changed it to her maiden name.
Mary grew up in the piney woods of East Texas, the daughter of a sharecropper, and during the times of Jim Crow. Her family home was without an ice box, electricity, or a phone but they did have a wood burning stove. She was expected to pick cotton like the others, but often used her petite stature and cuteness to avoid the fields. We all agree that she probably never picked not even one boll of cotton in her life, heaven forbid she mess up her nails. But when it came to climbing trees she was all about it. Her mother oftentimes would have to coax her down as she liked to climb as high as possible.
Mary gained great favor with her teachers and school principal and has been repeatedly described as very smart and studious. Her strong will and desire to move away from Timpson helped her to do well in school. Classmates sought to be in Home Economics with her because she was such a dynamic cook and seamstress. They wanted to partake in the benefits of her skills and good nature. However, to be clear, it was her mother that taught her to cook, sew, iron and starch clothes. She excelled in these areas which later were a great return on investment as a wife, mother, and business woman.
Instead of being in the cotton field Mary enjoyed thrilling adventures through the country with her baby brother. It’s been told that Durl would put a bottle of ketchup in his back pocket so when they caught a squirrel and prepared it they could enjoy lunch right in the middle of the woods. She also loved the rare occasions to take a train ride with her dad to the city for a new dress and quality time with him. Her father was the first black man in the county to own a Model T Ford. Prior to that one of her uncles had a horse drawn wagon and would come around to take them to and fro. She was quite fond of and highly respected her mother. Grandma Mable made Mary’s dresses out of pretty printed food sacs and taught her how to clean to the point that you could eat off their floor. Now we know from where the clean gene came. She also liked helping her mother tend to the gardens around their home. She frequently connected with her sister whom she loved a great deal and looked forward to her visits to Colorado. She dearly admired and delighted in time spent with her older brothers. She moved from Timpson to Lubbock with her older brothers in pursuit of a fuller life. Once married and her children were of age she especially enjoyed RV trips with her own family and Uncle Norris’ family.
During her adolescent and young adult years, Mary has been lovingly described as an incredibly sweet, supportive, quiet, subdued, caring, quite modest, hospitable, respectful, respected, and mostly just loved person. She was admired by all who knew her. Her smile glistened. You never found her in mess because she liked to work things out. She wasn’t very involved in school activities as she was very focused on her school work. She loved walking to her grandma Sally’s house at lunch to eat with her younger first cousin and dear friend Emma Jean. Her favorite part of that meal was greens. This explains why she helped seal the deal with her son-in-law, Rod, whom she would prepare greens for every Thursday night during he and Yolanda’s dating years. Mary graduated from Timpson Colored High School (a one building non-integrated schoolhouse for elementary through high school) in 1961 in a class of 23 students. She experienced school and the early years of life through Jim Crow Laws. It must have been the experiences in her early years that one loved one noted her to be tenacious and powerful in a reserved way. It was always a delight to see Mary, such a sweetheart, and she looked forward to attending the periodic high school reunions. Being much younger than her older siblings she became an aunt at an early age and dearly loved her 22 nieces and nephews and later too many to count next generation family members. Mary had several aunts and uncles on both sides of her family as well as numerous cousins that she grew up with and savored every moment with them. She was a true friend, a beautiful cousin, and a fun-loving auntie. Several folks stated, “I thank God for her in my life!”
Although Mary grew up in Timpson, her soon to be husband, Willie D. Kellum, was a snazzy high school boy from Tenaha, the next town over. It was common for the boys from Tenaha who had cars to travel the 10 miles to Timpson to watch basketball games there. Sometimes they would also go during lunch to check out the pretty girls. (Hmm how long were their lunch periods???) Nevertheless, during one of his lunch visits, Willie D. sees the most beautiful, angelic girl in a beautiful starched and ironed dress. Willie immediately began dreaming about white picket fences and three children. He quickly learned who her parents were and decided to ask permission to see her. Mary’s mother redirected Willie D. to her father. While Mr. Osby was very strict, he eventually allowed the two to see each other. During that time courtship took place in the parlor of the family home. During their first visit together, Mr. Osby was awfully thirsty as he repeatedly went through the parlor to refill his cup with water. Over time he approved of Willie D. taking her to the movies. When he went off to Jarvis College they promised to wait for each other. After college Willie D. lived in Amarillo and Mary had moved to Lubbock. He would drive the 123 miles every Sunday to see her. They were married in Lubbock five years after first meeting and six years later began their family. Now married, they needed a bigger place to stay than the room Willie was renting out so they bought their first home in Amarillo for $8,000 at $53/month. Soon after Reggie was born and 17 months later Ron. Later, they moved to Denver, Colorado with Phillips 66 and ran their own self named gas station, Kellum 66 off Montview and Clinton. It was here that their third bundle of joy, Yolanda, was born. Mary was the best mother ever, never letting them get dirty. She was feisty and had to have the last word. Mary was very strong in her Christian beliefs and studied the bible regularly. She was a God-fearing woman.
We can see that Mary came from very humble beginnings and over the years she became a great manager of her home, family, and money. She worked at Jim’s Department Store, a bridal shop, and owned Kellum 66 Gas Station, Duncan’s Men Store, Duncan’s Men Store #2 with her then husband Willie, and Moonstruck Women’s Boutique. A meticulous bookkeeper and a real go-getter. She had a real eye for fashion and was fulfilled by helping men and women look their best. Mary would often say, “A part of feeling good is looking good” and she wanted people to feel good about themselves. Not only could she help you pull together a slick outfit she could do the alterations to ensure it was just right for you.
Hobbies and Interests-
Mary was quite an active woman. She enjoyed sewing- she made her daughter’s debutante ball gown and a wedding dress for a family friend. Gardening- could grow anything and had an impressive vegetable garden that family and friends enjoyed. Shopping- she loved beautiful quality classic clothes, fancy hats, and high heel shoes. Mary would dress up for the seven hour drive to visit friends and family in Amarillo and Lubbock. Exploring- she would often venture with just her children to remote locations all over the mountains, or Cheyenne Wyoming to see the cowboys, and Colorado Springs to see the Royal Gorge, to name just a few of her many adventures.
Golfing- where she met some of her dearest friends. Traveling- around the world with family and two of her closest friends. She exposed her children to all of these things and she and Willie even purchased a condo in the Bahamas as a second home for them. When she still lived alone she walked 3 miles a day in her neighborhood ensuring daily exercise. The thing that brought her the greatest joy though was being with or talking to family and friends on the phone, just ask her grandkids.
Mary didn’t meet a stranger; but she had a few close knit sistafriends that she treasured. She is described as a good mother, hard working, who got along well with others. Someone who was easy to talk with, who respected your ideas and ways. It was easy to laugh and cry with her and you certainly enjoyed being in her company. Mary was a giver, quite generous and supportive. She was fun and a great travel companion. She was simply a good person, true family, and absolutely precious. She was an affectionate lady who exemplified grace and class. Our kids brought us together and we have remained together for over forty years. She’d often say, “God has a plan for our lives and He uses everything to help us- nature, animals, and others. You just have to pay attention.”
Her pride and joy were her three children: Reginald Kellum (ex wife-Lynn), Ronald Kellum (Josh Adamson), and Yolanda Greer (Rod). She worked diligently to teach them valuable life lessons like, if you hoot with the owls you have to soar with the eagles. In other words, there was no excuse to miss church. She modeled respectful relationships regardless of people’s ethnicity, values, or socio-economic status. As she and her husband raised the children, Mary wanted them to have access and opportunity to all the good life had to offer. Her children were raised to be comfortable dining with dignitaries or eating with the down and out. She taught them the value of a dollar and helped put them through college. She exposed them to various interests, and the world of travel. She was over the moon proud of her three children and all of their many individual accomplishments. She had a significantly positive impact on not only her children but those she met and interacted with.
Members of her extended family describe her as classy, elegant, gracious, graceful, sophisticated, and eloquent. She opened her doors many times for loved ones to stay with her who needed a new perspective on life. Be it that Mary was kind and welcoming she didn’t let anyone take advantage of her kindness, you knew who was in charge when you were in her presence.
Her adorable, brilliant, and “easy to look at” five grandchildren portray her as the most powerful, independent, vibrant, sassy, and inspiring woman they know. She always had their back and would support any crazy adventure. She was the kind of person to go out of her way to make them happy, spending hours cooking, making their favorite desserts and sneaking them to McDonald's. She was the sweetest/scariest woman to ever bless them with her presence. So much of her is a part of them. She embodied everything a woman should be. She was elegant, fierce, educated, and resilient. She showed them what a successful black woman can look like and that she still had moves. She taught them how to Moonwalk and they believed she could do anything. They enjoyed watching nature shows with her and her loving presence could shift a bad day to a good one instantly.
Mary the grandmother was a protector, a lover, a fashionista, a family pillar, a teacher, a strong, independent woman, and now their guardian angel. She is all of these things in one and is a huge part of why they are the way they are. She instilled morals and virtues into them that have allowed them to achieve the amount of success that they have at this point. There may have been a lot of butt whoopins at grandma's house, but more love than you can imagine. She loved and cared for them and all people. Her grandkids were her Pookie Bears.
Mary loved the Lord! She grew up in church and was raised by God loving parents. She attended and served most of her Denver life at Macedonia Baptist Church. She enjoyed dressing up every Sunday morning and being attentive to the message of the week. She served faithfully on the Trustee Board, was a chairperson of the Missionary Society, a greeter, on the social action committee, a participant of the prayer trilogy, and always willing to help other ministries. She made the greeters sachets that were worn every Sunday. During her time living with the Greers she attended Word of Life Christian Center and was a faithful tither until the end.
Mary certainly grew in her faith and prayer life. When her children were young she prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take”. As they got older her prayer became, “Lord let me live to see my grandchildren”. This was a sincere and deep prayer as her mother passed when Reggie was but 19 days old. In later years and after her divorce her heart’s desire to the Lord was to create a home where her family could come together to bear up with one another in love. She was a real lady who held to her Christian values and walked this earth with grace.
The Final Years-
Over the last decade Mary was stricken with and eventually succumbed to the harsh reality of Dementia. Through the challenges this cruel disease brought her she still maintained her dignity, modesty, and love for her family. Her children, a few close family friends, and nearly a dozen caregivers over the years came alongside her to help in her care. During the four years stay with Rod and Yolanda. It was really special to watch Enjolee’, Joshua, and Jaden transition and mature as they helped to take care of her and their other grandmother. During this time she would get really excited when Ron would visit from California, Reg would bring her sweet treats and Rod would spoil her with good eats. The road wasn’t easy but worth every moment.
Mary transitioned from this world on January 15, 2022 as beautiful as ever and in peace. We believe that her last breath here was followed by her first breath in glory in her perfected body.
"Mary Osby Kellum will be dearly missed and fondly remembered"
She leaves to cherish her memory, the father of her children, her three children and their spouses, five grandchildren, three great grandchildren, her sister, a brother-in-law, two sister-in-laws, and her beloved extended family and dear friends.
If you have a loved one suffering from Dementia a few great resources are the book The 36 Hour Day by Mace and Rabins, the AARP Family Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook, and certainly the Alzheimer’s Association 800-272-3900. If you would like, donations can be made in her memory to The Alzheimer’s Foundation https://alzfdn.org/support-us/donate/. There are many more but these were most supportive to Yolanda and her family when Mary lived with them.