Mother’s Day around the table at the home of Dennis and Mary Miller, of Scottsboro, is a large, happy event.
The Millers have seven grown children, all but two of which are married, and 10 grandchildren.
On the outside, Mary is poised, graceful and beautiful, with sparkling eyes and an easy smile. But there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.
A lifelong member of the Catholic Church, she is a firm believer in faith, family, hard work, and above all – love.
“I was born in Pennsylvania,” she said, “and raised in Ohio. I moved to Texas at age18 in search of job and nine months later, I met Dennis.”
He had just returned from Vietnam, and the couple was almost instantly in love. They married six months after they met, and within the year, Mary was pregnant with their first child, Jeff.
“We both wanted a large family,” she said, “we thought we’d like to have six children, but as it turned out, God gave us seven.”
All of the kids came along in quick succession.
“We have five sons and two daughters,” she said. “Jeff was born in 1968, Danny in 1972, LuAnn in ’73, Joey in ’74, Stephen in ’76 and Brent in ’78.”
Around 1973, Mary was pregnant with their third child when Dennis became unemployed.
At the urging of her father, the Millers relocated to Pennsylvania where he had a job waiting for Dennis.
“Dad was the plant engineer for Halstead-Mitchell in Pennsylvania at the time,” she said. “I didn’t grow up there, but my parents were there, so it was kind of like going home.”
Eventually, her parents relocated to Scottsboro where her dad designed the local Halstead-Mitchell building.
“Dennis was tired of Pennsylvania winters,” she said. “He wanted to go back to Texas, but I didn’t so, in 1973, we came here.
“Dennis was supposed to start with Halstead-Mitchell,” she continued, “but he changed his mind and applied at the Scottsboro police department instead.”
He initially became a beat cop and later, a sergeant, then Lieutenant, and then was the captain over the investigation unit before eventually becoming Sheriff of Jackson County.
All the while, Mary was mother to the kids and stayed at home to care for them.
“We got a house at Goosepond in 1976,” she recalled. “They were building the house so we had them enclose the garage and put a window in there. The bedrooms were so tiny I couldn’t fit that many kids in there.
All four boys were in the garage, then Brent came along and I had to set up the smallest room as a nursery.
“I had friends who lived in the neighborhood, and they would say, ‘we’ve got to find another house, we need something bigger,” she continued. “I’d think, ‘my gosh sometimes there’s five of us in the bathroom!”
Her memories of that time are fond.
“I always thought of the song by Doug Stone, ‘Love Grows Best in Little Houses,’” she said. “It’s about people bumping into each other in the hallways. I’d think, ‘we fit just fine in here.’”
They had a great home life. The kids fought like kids fight, but for the most part, the family was happy.
“I was the disciplinarian because Dennis had to work other jobs,” she said. “It was hard financially because I couldn’t work, but I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway.
“People used to look at me and say, ‘did you want seven children?’ It was kind of derogatory, but I’d say, “absolutely. It was God’s plan.
“I loved being pregnant,” she said. “I never had trouble and all my deliveries were good. I wouldn’t say I’m a real organized person but you have to be when you have a large family.”
Every time the doors were open at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Scottsboro where the Miller’s have been members for 40 years, she took her children to services.
“Faith is everything to me,” she said. “I raised my children in the church, and a lot of the time I was by myself because of my husband’s job. I would put three on one side and three on the other with the baby in my lap.
“They were good kids,” she recalled with a laugh. “I would sit up front because I figured out that if I sat in the back of the church they were horrible.
“We have little alcoves in our church,” she continued, “ so I’d tell them, ‘if you misbehave, I will stand you in that alcove and everyone will know you’ve done something you shouldn’t have.’ I didn’t ever have to do that.”
Over the years, Mary loved and raised her children to be productive members of the community with Dennis by her side.
She eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and worked as a juvenile probation officer.
Later, she went back to school and became a registered nurse.
It was not always easy, but she did it for her family.
Today, they are grown, and the house is usually filled with the laughter of grandchildren and even a foreign exchange student every once in a while.
Mary and Dennis are happy in their home on July Mountain, and retirement is a good thing.
The family is close, and has dinner together at least twice each month. When Mother’s Day rolls around, Mary is the center of attention, showered with gifts and surrounded by love.
“I tell them not to do that,” she said, “but they do anyway.”
Her philosophy on motherhood is simple, and has stood the test of time.
“I believe in making sure kids have what they need,” she said. “That is faith in God, love, a roof over their head, food to eat and a good education. They also need to know that they always have somebody they can count on to be there for them.”