By Tammie Beasley
Mary Elizabeth Powell Miller, better known to her family and friends as Tiz, will be 102 years old in January 2021. Tiz has resided at Brandenburg Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for the past two years. With the assistance of two wonderful employees of the Brandenburg Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Samantha Coates and Rhonda Smiley, I was able to talk to Tiz by phone via Facetime. I would not have been able to write this article due to the COVID-19 pandemic without their support.
Tiz’s nephew was my step-father for many years so I have known Tiz was a part of our family since I was a child. Also, my mother lived next door to her in an apartment complex in Brandenburg for several years so I saw her frequently. Tiz and my mother both liked to sit outside in their chairs in the evenings when the weather was warm.
Mary Elizabeth Powell was born to Everett and Lela Wardrip Powell in Brandenburg, Kentucky on January 21, 1919. Everett was a farmer and Lela ran the household and stayed at home with her children. Tiz had eight brothers and sisters: Alma, Helen, Lillian, James (Jaybird), Johnny, Paul, Thelma, and Thomas (Sug). Two of her brothers are still living.
Tiz has lived most of her life in Brandenburg. Her family lived in West Point for a few short years when she was a child while her father worked at the chemical plant there. They moved back to Brandenburg and her father worked on different farms for the rest of his life. They lived on a farm near the chemical plant outside of Brandenburg for many years.
Growing up, Tiz and all her siblings helped their father on the farm. They planted, hoed and harvested corn, cut trees, and split wood among other chores. In Tiz’s words, she “worked just like a man in the fields.” When they weren’t working on the farm or going to school, Tiz remembers that they rode horses, went sleigh riding, and played baseball and hopscotch. Tiz went to a country school near the chemical plant and then later went to Brandenburg to school.
Tiz said her most vivid childhood memory involves a china doll. It was the only doll she ever had as a child. She said that she had it hanging over a swinging door in their home and one day her brother, Jaybird, slammed through the door and the doll fell off and broke into pieces. She said she remembers being heartbroken. Over the years, after hearing the story about the china doll, many people have given her china dolls but she said that Jaybird never did give her one! She also remembers going to the showboat which traveled the Ohio River and that she loved to hear the calliope.
She met her future husband, Frank Miller, when he was dating her first cousin, Nelly Wardrip. Frank and Nelly came to Tiz’s family’s home to visit and before they left, Frank had made a date with Tiz! When I asked her, Tiz said that Nelly never begrudged her dating, and eventually marrying, Frank and that they all remained friends. Frank was also born and raised in Meade County and he had three brothers. Frank and Tiz got married at Brother Pollock’s home in 1937. They were blessed with two daughters, Brenda who lives in Fairdale and Sue who lives in Breckinridge County. Tiz has six grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. She also has several nieces and nephews.
Frank was a mechanic and owned a garage in Brandenburg until his death. He also owned and operated the Brandenburg Ferry until the opening of the Matthew E. Welsh bridge that connected Brandenburg and Mauckport, Indiana on November 19, 1966. I remember my father taking me down to the river to ride the ferry across the river and back several times…..for the price of a nickel. Tiz said that Frank hauled everything on that ferry including people, cars, animals, and farm equipment and that he always had stories to tell about the ferry. In addition to raising her daughters, Tiz contributed to the family finances by cleaning houses in Brandenburg for many years.
Tiz Miller has lived through a lot of changes and events in this world in her 101 years. Some of those include the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression from 1929-1933, the 1937 flood, the invention of electricity, indoor plumbing, automobiles, television, radio, phones, and computers, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (when I asked, she did not remember where she was when she heard the news), the civil rights movement, the astronauts walking on the moon, the hippie era, the 1978 blizzard, and the 2007 Flood. Tiz was at her home on Brandenburg Road when the 1974 tornado hit Meade County. Her home was damaged but no one in her family was hurt. She lived in the apartment complex in Brandenburg when the 2009 ice storm occurred. She stayed in her apartment by herself without electricity for several days but neighbors helped her out. She lived through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the war in Iraq. And now she is living through the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been unable to see her family or have visitors for most of this year but she has talked to her family by phone. She hopes by her birthday in January 2021 she will be able to see her family and have visitors.
When I asked her what she thought about all the changes in the world, she said, “I don’t like them.” She said she doesn’t like politics these days either, but she has already done her civic duty and sent in her mail-in ballot.
Tiz is pictured in this article with a chair that she acquired when her daughters were babies. The chair was made of wood that was retrieved from the Alice Dean, the river boat that was torched and sunk in the Ohio River during the civil war in June of 1863. The chair is now displayed in the Meade County History Museum.
Tiz always liked to play bingo and do word searches and she still does. I have an aunt in the same facility as Tiz and I hope to visit them both as soon as possible in 2021. And maybe Tiz will have some more stories to tell me about her life!