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Mother of the Year

Commonwealth names longtime educator as this year’s top mom

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Sundays at the Pulley home are filled with family, fellowship and multiple courses of freshly prepared entrees and sides made with love by Margie Pulley.

She wakes up early before church time to begin preparing the afternoon meal, where she serves anywhere from 10 to 30 people each week.

After church, she comes home to put the finishing touches on all her dishes before the 3 p.m. mealtime.

“Our family has always been that way,” said her son, Kenneth Pulley. “We’re not just talking about one meat, one vegetable and rolls.”

How about steak, rice, corn, chicken, fish, spaghetti, ribs, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, dressing, and Kenneth’s favorite — macaroni and cheese?

“That’s on the inside; she barbecues, as well,” said her oldest son, William Walton.

Her home is not only a gathering place for her three sons, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren but also for her siblings and their families, and she enjoys cooking for them every Sunday and on holidays.

“That’s what I like doing, and I don’t want anybody in the kitchen to help me do it,” Pulley said.

The Sunday meal, however, does more than feed the members of her family. Pulley said it keeps them close.

“That’s important. You keep your family together,” she said. “Our Sunday dinners keep us connected and together. When everybody comes in, we just have a hallelujah good time.”

According to her three sons, this dedication to her family is one of the many reasons why Pulley is such a good parent.

“We think she’s the Mother of the Year, not just this year but every year,” said Kenneth.

She was selected as The Greenwood Commonwealth’s 2019 Mother of the Year and was nominated for the honor by Kenneth and William, along with their brother, Kelvin Pulley. Kenneth and Kelvin live in Greenwood, and William in Southaven.

• • •

The Sunday dinner tradition was passed down to Pulley from her mother, Claudine Brown.

“It’s been going on as long as I can remember,” said Kelvin. “The tradition was you would go to church, and after church, we would go to my grandmother’s house in the Browning Community, and she would prepare food for the family and for the pastor.”

Kenneth said he remembers hauling pans in his mother’s car to be taken to his grandmother’s home.

“My grandmother would do the cooking, and my mother would help her,” he said.

Brown did this until she was about 75 years old, and then Pulley kept the tradition alive.

In 2012, an addition was built onto the Pulley home because her husband, the late Cedell Pulley, wanted to make sure there was enough space for family dinners.

“My husband was a part of this,” Pulley said. “He made sure the home was welcoming and large enough for everybody to sit and eat.”

Pulley said Brown was her role model for being a mother.

“She is the true matriarch,” said Pulley. “When she speaks, we all listen.”

Brown now resides with Pulley.

“My mother was a very, very hard-working lady, and even now at 87 years old she says, ‘You know I have to keep moving, because if you go home and sit down, you will go down.’”

Brown was named the Commonwealth’s Mother of the Year in 1985. It was Pulley who nominated her.

In the nomination letter, she wrote that her mother, “stands firm in what she believes is right, is always professional and is always supportive of her children. Last, but not least, she gives us love. No matter how busy she is, there is always time for her to listen to what we have to say.”

Pulley’s sons said this describes their mother, too.

“She’s just like my grandmother,” Kenneth said.

William describes his mother as “persistent, consistent and very reliable.”

• • 

Pulley said being a mother is hard work.

“You have to put your family first, and especially your children,” she said. “You have to let that be the priority, and we placed our priorities on the children.”

Pulley is a longtime educator with a 45-year career that included serving as superintendent of the Greenwood School District. She currently serves as the state-appointed interim superintendent of the Tunica County School District.

“She is respected statewide for her leadership skills and abilities in working with school districts that have been taken over by the state. More important, though, is the fact that she is truly a great mother,” her sons said in their letter nominating her.

If Pulley’s sons participated in an activity, they remember, their parents were there.

Their nomination letter also says, “She never missed a school activity, music recital, pee-wee baseball games, basketball games, football games, spelling bees, etc. In other words, if we were involved, our mother was always there.”

The support of their parents was the norm in their home, they said.

“I don’t know of anything I was ever a part of, whether it was in the school or in the community, that my mother and my father were not there,” said Kelvin. “The physical support of them being there, that’s worth more than anything money can buy.”

Pulley’s children are now adults — William is 40 and twins Kelvin and Kenneth are 32. William has a 7-year-old, William Walton III, and Kelvin and his wife, Jessica, have two children — Rhaegan, 11, and Morgan, 3 months old.

In January, Kelvin, who is an attorney, could not immediately travel to Jackson when his wife, Jessica, began to go into labor.

“My mother took off work and went to Jackson,” he said. “I think she sat there 12 hours with my wife until I could get there. That kind of thing, just the support of whatever you need, she’s there. You don’t have to ask. It’s just automatic.”

Pulley keeps in touch with all of her sons several times a day. She’s been calling each one throughout the day since they were in college.

“I have to make sure that all three of them are OK,” she said. “So I talk to each one of them every single morning to make sure they are OK, and during the daytime, I check on them again to see how they’re doing. It’s just a habit that you have to make sure your children are OK, and that’s what I do.”

• • 

Pulley said her husband, who passed away unexpectedly on July, 23, 2018, was a wonderful father.

“Their dad was their role model. They didn’t have to look for someone to serve as their role model. We had the role model at home, and that was their dad,” she said. “Their dad was a very quiet, very humble person, and he would be very proud of them.”

Pulley said she and her husband of 33 years didn’t have a lot of disciplinary issues with their children.

“Their dad made it very clear in his own very quiet way that y’all would respect your momma and do what your momma says, and you’ll be OK,” she said.

“He was our provider and protector. When it came to homework and those kinds of things, he left that to me. I never had to worry, because we set the expectation that you will go to school and do well, and that’s what they did. The expectation was they worked hard to meet the expectation that we both set, and on Sunday, you were going to church — that was the non-negotiable at our house.”

All of her children did well in school — William earned a master’s degree, Kenneth earned a doctorate and Kelvin earned a law degree. Kenneth and Kelvin were also the valedictorian and salutation of Greenwood High School’s Class of 2005 and received their undergraduate degrees from Jackson State University, each with a 4.0 grade point average, in three years. Now as adults, they are also active in church.

One of the family’s favorite memories centers on Christmastime. While the children were growing up, decorating the home for the holiday was something they all enjoyed.

“That was a total family event,” said Pulley. “Their dad used to eat Thanksgiving dinner, and then go out and decorate the house. He would decorate the house up until the next Friday, and he knew that he had to have the lights ready for the Christmas parade.”

Inside the home, Pulley had about six different Christmas trees, which included a silver one, a gold one and a red one.

“I had them in every color,” she said.

Featured in her Christmas decor is Pulley’s collection of about 500 Santa Claus figurines that she’s been collecting for about 30 years.

• • 

Pulley said an important part of being a mother is to “encourage them to do the right thing.”

“You have to be respectful to them, and expect that they are respectful of you,” she said.

“They have to have religious values. I think that more than anything, you have to take them to church.

“At a very early age, make sure your children are reading and make sure they are read to. Make sure you check homework, and make sure you go to their activities and check their progress reports and their report cards and check in with their teachers.

“You have to encourage them and keep encouraging them to do well, and generally they rise to the expectation.”

Kenneth said, “It just allowed us to go forth and make some of the decisions we’ve made.

“We have a long way to continue as far as careers and family, but we are definitely rooted and grounded in those principles that (my parents) instilled in us.”

For Pulley, she said motherhood has been great: “Raising my boys has been a wonderful experience.”

• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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