COOKS OF THE WEEK: East Tupelo couple doesn’t let age slow them down

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Amazing.
There’s really no other word to describe Irene and Delmer Byrd of east Tupelo.
The 90-year-olds – her birthday is today – prepare two meals a day, exercise, maintain a summer garden and regularly attend Tupelo Freewill Baptist Church.
“My mother lived to be 97,” said Irene. “She always watched what she ate and she believed in exercise. Two weeks before she died, she could still walk a mile with me. I tell you, your body is what you eat. That’s for sure.”
The couple, who have been married 10 years, make sure to eat plenty of vegetables, chicken and fish.
“I’ve got my garden broke up, but I haven’t planted it yet,” said Delmer. “It will probably be the first of May before I get it planted.”
The Byrds will grow – at the very least – corn, peas, okra, squash, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.
“He grows the best corn you’ve ever eaten,” Irene said. “Sometimes, we have meat with our meals and sometimes we just have vegetables. One day, I looked down and we had eight vegetables from the garden on our plates.”
Irene had a pacemaker put in a half dozen years ago, so she watches her sodium intake.
“We try to stay away from canned soup because of the salt, but we’d rather make our own soups anyway,” she said.
Sometimes, the couple works together in the kitchen to prepare meals, and sometimes they don’t.
“He usually pushes me out – he doesn’t want me in his way,” Irene said laughing. “He’s got that hyper blood and he’s a lot quicker than I am.”

More wedding bells
Irene grew up in Golden in Tishomingo County and Delmer is from Alabama. Both had 50-plus-year first marriages before losing their spouses.
“We married our first spouses the same year and our children were born in the same year,” Irene said. “A lot of things we kindly had in common.”
Delmer was a farmer, along with his family, before entering World War II in 1942. He served in France, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, serving under Gen. George S. Patton.
“I got to shake his hand and talk to him,” Delmer said.
The Byrds share three children, five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. They have also “adopted” a Lee County couple – Dottie Wilson and Carey Carnathan – who will wed on April 16.
“They eat with us about once a week,” Irene said. “They’re just like our own. In fact, they’ve asked us to be in their wedding. I can’t think of a nicer compliment.”

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

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