Mary Selleck Morton Giles, age 76 of Burkeville, passed away early Sunday morning on June 21, 2020 from complications of Covid 19.
The only child of Gladys Van Valkenburgh Morton and Richard Page Morton of Charlotte Court House, Mary Giles loved the color orange, and pigs, and frogs, and elephants. When she was little, she had a dog named “Honey” and was on the golf team at Longwood in college, and she never tolerated foolishness, bigotry, or self-pity. She said what she thought, and the devil take the hindmost. She loved emeralds and wore Chanel, but also cut offs and tank tops. She hated to cook but made the best spaghetti sauce in the world and always put olives in salads. She never lost at cards, NEVER, even recently, and she had the most beautiful hands you’d ever seen. She used to play the piano at the Waldorf Astoria, and she was determined not to force her children to play the piano. She drove a school bus and kept a cooler of popsicles for the kids who rode her bus. She could not stand not knowing the weather forecast, and she used to tell her children to go play in traffic when they were bad. She got her first and only tattoo in her fifties. She let her children play in her jewelry box and read books that were far too mature for their age. She always said to take a second and look before throwing a ball, and to never leave the house looking less than presentable, because who knows what would happen. She taught her children to eat with the right fork, to write thank you notes, how to fold a napkin into a lotus, and how to put down a horse when its leg was broken. She used to hook rugs and make potholders. She could crochet but not knit. She called her daughter every day at least six times, and they always went to the store together. The last plane trip she took was to Lake Tahoe. As a young lady, she spent her summers in the Hamptons with her parents; when she became a parent herself, she spent her summers weeding the garden and taking her children to the cannery. She had hundreds of houseplants, and she loved to fish and ride horses. She fought tooth and nail to keep her truck keys, and she only took showers at night, not in the morning. She would lay out every day to get a tan and would kill a snake as soon as look at it. Her handle on the CB was “Honeydew,” and she never put salt on anything, not even corn. She used to buy her children Big League Chew and let them get comic books at the Burkeville Drug Store and loved making ceramics. She never let her children get in her bed when they had nightmares, but she always made them pudding when they were sick. She never ran out of batteries or toilet paper, and she used to serve duck eggs for breakfast. She loved Conway Twitty and church. She smoked menthols for decades and was never in bed later than 10:30, and never out of bed later than 5. She liked gin and orange juice, but not bourbon or rum. She put saccharine in her coffee and gave the dogs their flea medicine on the 15th of every month. She loved crosswords and MASH, and her next door neighbor was her best friend. She always helped her children study and never missed a game or a play. She kept her nail polish in the refrigerator and never threw out a towel until it was more holes than towel. She kept an old Farmville Creamery bottle on her kitchen windowsill, and when her first granddaughter was born, gave her a baby dress still in its Baldwin’s box. She hid away all the portraits, silver, crystal, and jewels of her youth, but put on display her great-great-great grandmother’s washstand and piano music. She was the only one her mother would trust to clean the chandeliers, and she popped her children with the flyswatter when they sassed. She had beautiful penmanship and loved raw oysters until her son made her stop eating them. She hated being sent to boarding school, wanted to be a mother more than anything, and Oh, she never got one speeding or traffic ticket in her entire life.
At the end of her life, her aides, who called her “Momma” or “Boss Lady” would beg her to sit up and fuss with them. Her grandson wants you to know his grandma did a lot of great things in her life. Our mother was Mary Morton Giles, and we loved her. But as her son-in-law always says, she was easy to love.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Gladys Van Valkenburgh and Page Morton, and her beloved uncle, Lee Morton. She is survived by her son Lee Giles and his wife Linda, her daughter Juanita Giles and her husband Matthew McWilliams, and her three grandchildren, Page, Virginia, and Marion McWilliams. We are indebted to the wonderful ladies who took care of her and also to Hospice of Virginia.
In honor of her life, contributions may be made to the Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire Department or the Longwood Black Alumni Association Scholarship Fund.