'Miss Gussie' Leaves a Legacy of Smiles
For the better part of 30 years, Gussie Mae Bogan owned the steps of the U.S. post office in Southern Pines. From mid-morning until whenever, she sat nearby and sold The Pilot.
“I bought one from Gussie even though I subscribed at home,” says the Rev. Joshua Haire Jr. of First Missionary Baptist Church in Southern Pines.
Bogan’s earnings (hardly anybody asked for change) went to grandson Gary, who often accompanied her. But customers surmise that greeting them factored into her motivation, which had to be strong since Bogan walked from her house to the post office — well over a mile — then back, into her 90s.
Bogan died at home on Aug. 12, at 102. She was the oldest member, ever, of First Missionary Baptist Church — and, when a fall forced her retirement at 99, surely Moore County’s oldest paper vendor.
“I remember her coming with a grocery cart to pick up 25-30 papers and pushing it down to the post office,” says Mike McInnes, Pilot circulation manager. “I admired her for that. It was a joy stopping by and talking to her.”
Birtha Shaw: “You’d see little old Miss Gussie sitting there and you couldn’t pass her by. She was sweet as she could be, and funny, too.”
When an umbrella wasn’t enough, Oliver Hines gave her a ride.
“I’ve known Gussie all my life,” he says. “She was my mama’s friend. We lived on the same block.”
Hines saw a different side: “Sometimes she was quiet, not boisterous. She kept a little to herself, but everybody knew who Gussie was.”
Bogan was born in Scotland County, relocating to Southern Pines in the 1950s. She had two children: Deloise Platt and a son, now deceased. When the children were small, Bogan worked as a domestic, also as a housekeeper at Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge on U.S. 1.
“She was a hard worker,” says cousin Ciscero Carpenter. He worked at HoJo’s, too, on the switchboard, while in high school: “They served a 3-D sandwich in the restaurant,” Carpenter recalls. “Every day she would make sure I got one of those sandwiches. That’s how I felt the love in her.”
Carpenter’s birthday was close to Bogan’s. “After I retired (from the Navy) Gussie and I would celebrate our birthdays together. She cooked me a cake up until she was 101. She loved to eat it, too.”
On holidays, Bogan prepared two meats and up to four cakes.
Deloise Platt has always lived in the same house as her mother. When her children were small, Bogan was the neighborhood baby sitter. When they grew up, Platt says, “Mama didn’t like being in the house by herself so she started selling papers. She talked and smiled to everyone.”
Bogan began accompanying grandson Gary to Broad Street when he was a teenager. “He liked knowing she was uptown with him,” Platt says. “He’d take her water and fix her lunch.”
Bogan was equally visible at church. “She always sat on the same side, facing me,” Rev. Haire says. “She was cognizant of everything that happened at church — very sharp mentally. She asked about our children’s program and new building.”
In addition to attending worship services and Bible study, Bogan was selected for Mothers of the Church, a group of respected seniors who counseled younger women on personal problems.
All that walking paid off, Haire discovered, when Miss Gussie joined church excursions to Busch Gardens, Disney World and other theme parks into her 90s.
“She walked everywhere with us, no wheelchair.”
Haire suggested holding Bogan’s funeral on a Sunday to accommodate working people.
“The church was packed,” he said.
Two years before, FMBC hosted Bogan’s 100th birthday party.
A Pilot vendor still stands in the street near the post office. There’s a coin box, as well. But, Bogan’s admirers agree, Gussie Mae cannot be replaced. Platt commissioned a memorial plaque with her mother’s picture. It rests on her favorite chair.
“I go in her bedroom … I feel like she’s still here with me,” Platt says. “I hope that feeling don’t go away.”
Ciscero Carpenter offers a fitting epitaph: “She had a wonderful life … she surely did.”
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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