COOK OF THE WEEK: Tupelo woman fills her life with good food and laughter

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Rooney Maharrey will tell you right off the bat that her real name isn’t Rooney.
“It’s Martha Sue,” said the 76-year-old. “ When I was born, there was this comic strip called Little Annie Rooney and my uncle, Vernon Anderson, started calling me that. They dropped the Little and they dropped the Annie, and I started grammar school as Rooney Anderson.”
The name Rooney suits this great-grandmother, whose sharp wit, facial expressions and story-telling abilities will keep you laughing.
“My brother used to say he loved to come here to eat because you never knew where the conversation was going to go,” she said.
Maharrey grew up on Thomas Street in a little white house with a white picket fence across the street from where Tupelo Small Animal Hospital is today. That house is dark green now, and Maharrey and her husband, Billy Wayne, live next door in a house her father had moved there from North Gloster in 1963.
“When we was first married, we had big plans,” said Billy Wayne. “We were going to be married for five years, then start a family and then buy a nice house.”
Life didn’t turn out that way.
“Three months after we were married, we were living in a nice house and I was pregnant,” she said, laughing.
Maharrey retired from Peoples Bank (now Renasant) in 1998 when she was 61 so she and her husband could take an extended trip to Alaska.
“We spent two-and-a-half months together in a camper and came back as friends,” she said. “We didn’t kill each other, so I guess we can live through anything.”
Maharrey also came back from that trip sporting a short hairdo, a style she has kept in the 15 years since.
“I had longer hair but on the trip to Alaska I got a perm and I couldn’t do anything with it,” she said. “It was just woolly. So I got the scissors and cut it myself, really gapped it. When we got to Anchorage, I went to a JCPenney salon and I said to the stylist, ‘I have ruined my hair.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Yes, I can see.’”
The Maharreys still like to travel, but more than that, they like to share good meals with friends.
“We have what we call the Turnip Green Club,” she said. “There’s five couples and I start cooking about two days before they all get here. Turnip greens, turnips, fresh corn, potato salad, peas, cracklin’ cornbread and chocolate pie. Once or twice a year we do this – whenever the mood strikes me.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.