BIOGRAPHIES of HENDERSON COUNTY

BERNICE MANESS


This week our Interesting Person feature profiles Bernice Maness, retired school teacher and librarian at the Everett Horn Library. She retired in May of this year after 15 years service. Bernice comes from a pioneer family and can trace her ancestry back to the Stewart line of England and Scotland. Her grandmother came to Tennessee from Anson County, S. C., in 1840. She loaded her eight children in two Conestoga wagons and came across the mountains with a group of other families. They all settled close together in Henderson County where the family has lived ever since.
Bernice was born near Reagan on the family farm. She is the oldest of eight children. Her parents were the late Alfred and Electa Stewart. There were five boys and three girls. Other than Bernice, they are Norman who lives on the family farm near Reagan; Jerome Stewart of Memphis; Louise Smith of Henderson and Virginia Lockey of Memphis. A brother, Bill Stewart, died recently. Bernice recalls how they worked on the farm during her childhood. Her father was not only a farmer, he was a teacher as, well, one of several in Bernice's family.

She attended a one-teacher school at Union Hill and later went to Reagan School until she was a senior in high school. She boarded in Lexington with three of her friends and graduated in 1932. Her brothers and sisters all attended Scotts Hill and all graduated. They were very proud of the fact that even though they were poor, they were proud. Their parents never said, "if you finish school" - it was rather, "when you finish." There was no thought of dropping out or quitting for any reason. She appreciated her parents' attitude toward education and shall be forever grateful for having such parents. One of her teachers - in fact her first one - is still living. She is Mrs. Burcie Smith of Shady Hill and was our Interesting Person for her 93rd birthday June 12. Bernice visits her and they talk about everything back "when". She loves Mrs. Smith very much and is proud to have had her as a teacher.

Bernice graduated from high school in May and started teaching in July. It was her ambition to teach and help her little brothers and sisters go through school. This she did on less than $100.00 a month.

She started to college at Freed-Hardeman in Henderson and went between school terms and o n Saturdays. She finished two years there and thought &he would never go to school any more. But later, she went to Bethel College at McKenzie and got her BA degree. She says it was her proudest moment when she walked down and received her diploma. She had worked hard, kept house and had taken care of her son, but still had time to study and pass.

At the time she was going to Bethel, she almost lost her life in an automobile accident. She believes that for some reason God spared her for more years to come and she is for­ever thankful. She was in a wheel chair and lost a year from work, but finally she was able to resume her work in 1956.

In reminiscing, she recalls the first school she taught was at Center Hill, a three-teacher school. She had the middle grades. The children she taught were the second generation of ones her father had taught in this same school. Her dear friend, Miss Lula McMurray, was one of the teachers and they boarded together for four years. The principal was A. M. Travillian, a wonderful school man, she says. She and Lula had lots of fun going to dances, play parties, ball games, etc. and her memory is very dear to Bernice.

When Bernice left Center Hill, she went to another part of the county. She was elected to teach at Reeds - another three-teacher school, one she had never heard of but she felt they had a fine school. The other teachers were Miss Lois Johnson and Edgar Scates. It was a fine, supportive community. Their ball team was super and they beat every­thing in their path including Paul G. Caywood's team at the City School. They had more trophies than they could find shelves for. The girls were strong and played on outdoor courts. She was their coach one year and she says she didn't know half as much about basketball as they did, but she took care of them and went with them on all the trips and they had a wonderful time. She boarded with Mr. and Mrs. John L. Frizzell whom she learned to love very much. A unique feature of that school was that there were over 100 students and every single one was a Baptist and a Republican - of course that was 0. K. with me, for that was my ticket, too," she says.

She not only enjoyed school there but found her future husband who lived in that community. She says, "I guess that was the best day of my life when I met Murray Maness, who now after 52 years, is still my dearest friend and companion." They were married in 1939 and have enjoyed, a good life together.

Murray began working at Lexington in 1940 and they moved closer in, so she began teaching at Roberts School. When the war interfered, Murray went to work at the Milan Arsenal. They moved to Lexington but when he was called into service, she quit teaching and followed him as far as she could go. They had so many experiences she will never forget - moving from New Orleans to Pa. and Mass. She always got a job and made her way wherever they went. Eventually Murray was sent to the South Pacific and she had to return home. The next two years were the loneliest she had ever spent, but now she had a baby son, Murray Stewart Maness. He was 16 months old when his dad saw him for the first time. All in all, it was quite an experience.

After Murray came home, Bernice went back to teaching and he began working at the Lexington Electric System. She returned to Roberts School where she taught several more years. She had experienced teaching in a one teacher school at Oak Grove and she never wanted to try that again. She had 32 students plus her little son whom she carried with her. She made all the fires, coached the boys' ball team, cooked soup, made hot chocolate and actually had a good-time. Her pupils were wonderful and she still loves them dearly.

After Oak Grove, she was named Materials Director of Henderson County Schools and "it was a swell job", she says. She had charge of all textbooks, all library books, and all materials for the county schools. She worked at the job for five years, then had a chance to go to the LHS library where she worked three years. Rather than leave home and go to Peabody for library training, she took a classroom.

The years that followed are some she will always cherish. She made many friends and loved the high school students, so it was a very pleasant time. She sponsored the FTA, Senior play and was involved in other junior-senior activities. She has only pleasant memories of her life at LHS. Today, she feels repaid when someone she has taught comes by, introduce themselves, and tell her how much they enjoyed being in her classes. "It makes me feel 10 feet tall," she says.

Her family is scattered now, but she knows that's life for you. Her son, Murray Stewart, and his wife, Sharon, lives in Houston Texas. They visit here but not as often as she would like, she and Murray visit them also. Her grandsons, Christopher Stewart and Craig Lee Maness, live in Atlanta. They are 21 and of course they, their father, and Murray are the center of her life.

Bernice retired from the Library in May of this year but not before she saw the new building finished and open. There has been a steady growth since she took charge of the county library in 1975. When it was moved from the courthouse, Bernice became the librarian, succeeding Robbie Wallace. Only one room was opened at first and Bernice had it all to herself, but after a few months, the library board hired Belinda Thompson and later Mrs. Beulah Crook.

The three worked closely together and they tried hard to improve every facet of the library. Bernice is proud of having a part in the growth over the 15 year period. They added more people to the list of patrons every year. Through the help of her husband, Murray, who worked for HUD, she secured a grant for remodeling, carpeting and other necessary things. They started with one room but soon advanced to four rooms - their pride and joy being the Tennessee Room and is one of the favorites with library patrons. Another proud achievement is the Community Room which is furnished with a stove, refrigerator, cabinets, tables and chairs. In this room, a variety of clubs meet every week -B&PW, Scouts, Home Demonstration Clubs and family reunions.

She has met many nice people from other states and in this instance, we recall with gratitude her first acquaintance with Mr. and Mrs Everett Horn, now of Greenville, Texas, but who have roots in our county. After a visit or two with Bernice at the library, Mr, and Mrs. Horn saw a financial need and began a program of contributions. To date they have given a half million dollars. In appreciation, the library has been named for them and at the Open House for the new facility on Mother's Day this year, they were present, and just as all of us, feel that it is a distinct addition to our town and county.

Bernice thinks that the proudest part of her tenure in the library is the many friends she has made, and also the help she has tried to give when it was needed. She misses it, but she is enjoying her home and her husband as she never could before. She is proud to have been a part of the campaign to build the new library and she too feels it will be something all of us will be proud of in the years ahead.

She attends First Baptist Church and is assistant teacher in the Faith Class. She belongs to the Willa Stewart Circle of WMU. She taught the Georgia McCall Class for several years and organized the Ruth Class.

She belongs to the Henderson County Retired Teachers Ass'n., a member of the GOP Women and Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary. She enjoyed them all.

In retirement, she has a lot of things to do and does not intend to become bored. She likes to travel and plans to do more of that later. The best trip she has ever made was to the Holy Land in 1985.

She says, "It's real nice to be able to get in my car to go drink coffee with a friend, or go shopping, or just plain visiting. I plan to do them all."

If she has a motto or principle of living, it might be: Live life to its fullest every day and tomorrow will take care of itself. Happy retirement, Bernice, you've earned it!

Lexington Progress June 26, 1991 "An Interesting Person"
Bernice (Stewart) Maness born 6 February 1913 - died 16 June 1993
Murray Maness born 18 February 1920 - died 25 Jun 1998


Buried at Union Hill Cemetery

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