BY TOMMY HOWARD
THE CATHOLIC MISCELLANY
GEORGETOWN—Mary Hughes Shumpert is a rarity in many ways.
Born a Catholic in the deep South on Oct. 19, 1914, she has lived to see the start of her own new century, and she’s never broken a bone or had surgery.
Among the few Catholic institutions in South Carolina 100 years ago were St. Peter Church and School in Columbia. That’s where Mary Shumpert grew up, was educated, and married.
She and her husband, J.C., have one daughter, Suzanne Harris. They had been married 15 years “with no hope for a child, and then here she comes. She’s the most wonderful person. She’s a good Christian woman,” said the proud mother.
During World War II, when Fort Jackson was a major training base for the U.S. Army, Mary opened up the Columbia Grill.
The Ursuline sisters who operated the school “would send us hungry people who came to the church.” And when Army trainees would get a brief pass to go into town, they’d come to the grill and Mary and her family would take care of them.
“I loved feeding people,” she said. “We had to stay open seven days to feed all of them.”
Her husband died 25 years ago, and for a number of years now she and her daughter have lived together on Pawleys Island, where they moved after a lifetime in the capital city. They attend Mass every day at Precious Blood of Christ Church and help out at Father Pat’s Kitchen.
The church feeds lunch to about 100 people on two days and breakfast on Saturdays. Mary’s regular station is wrapping silverware in a napkin, and she stays ahead of the need by several days.
She’s in good health and has never really been sick.
“I eat what I want. I don’t eat any junk,” she said.
While in Columbia, she was active at St. Peter.
“I taught Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. He was 6 years old. I was his Sunday school teacher,” she explained.
For her 100th birthday, Mary bought a new Mercedes convertible. Next year, for her 101st, she and Suzanne plan to drive across country to Las Vegas for a celebration.
For her new car, Mary wants to get a sign to put on it: “God is good.”
“I love my religion,” she said in a reflective mood. “I don’t think other religions have the Eucharist like we do. It’s not just social. It’s very serious. You don’t take the Catholic religion lightly.
“I just don’t think life could be any better than this.”