By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Vangie Fields can’t go 10 seconds without a laugh, or at the very least, a smile.
The 82-year-old Tupelo woman radiates warmth, wit and a zest for life that’s uncommon these days, even in younger folks.
“Why don’t people have fun anymore?” Fields said. “They’re all so straight-laced. I guess they’re too afraid they’ll open their mouths and get sued. Not me. Hon, I’ve been there, done that, can’t remember a thing.”
Fields has indeed been there and done many things, most worth remembering.
She was the youngest of 13 children born in a dogtrot house in Ripley. Her mother died in childbirth and her father didn’t remarry, so she was sent to live with an uncle and aunt – O.W. and Altie Carmichiel Deen – in Corinth.
“That’s when I started cooking,” she said. “I’d get up on a little stool and cook. He was a saint. He’d eat all my stuff and just brag on it. Honey, you know it wasn’t fit to eat.
“I cooked regular meals from the time I was 12 years on. That was serious stuff. I wanted to be out playing bump jacks with the boys. I was the only girl in the neighborhood. I made the boys play dolls with me, though. We had to make our entertainment, hon. I lived so far back in the country that I didn’t even know what a banana was till I was 4 years old.”
Fields and her adopted parents would often visit her grandparents on top of the mountain at Deentown. Her mother was good friends with Modena Lowrey Berry, affectionately known as Mother Berry – whose father was the founder of Blue Mountain College.
“I grew up under Mother Berry,” Fields said. “Learned how to make her teacakes, too. They’re not too sweet and you have to make them real, real thin.”
Active in civic clubs
Fields started college at Blue Mountain, but quit at age 19.
“I was afraid I’d lose my man, so I married him,” she said. She and Alton Fields were married more than 50 years when he died in 2002. They have one son, Don, three grandchildren and too many great-grandchildren to count, according to Fields.
The Fields worked for F&W Express Inc., a trucking company, for 25 years, and then went to work for J&G Express in Jackson.
“My husband and I were both active in politics,” she said. “We had to be because the Interstate Commerce Commission controlled us. We were regulated by them.”
Fields was also involved in civic clubs too numerous to count.
“I was an officer in BPW (Business and Professional Women’s Organization) and Zonta,” she said. “I was a Lioness because my husband was a Lion. I was in the American Legion Auxiliary. I worked behind the scenes in all my civic clubs. Every club was strong in doing for the community.”
Fields was nominated for the Woman of Achievement award for the state of Mississippi in 1975.
“I didn’t expect to win that one and I didn’t,” she said.
But she was named “Miss Enthusiasm” by the state of Mississippi a few years later.
And it’s easy to see why.
“Oh, hon, I’m just so thankful to be able to do everything I can,” Fields said. “What I miss most with my age and my health is having people over to eat. So I live on my memories. It’s so much fun to live on memories.”
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 e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.