Carrie Murrell was a soft-spoken Georgia sharecropper’s daughter, but a pillar of strength for her vast family.
A mother of 19 children, she worked the fields of Manatee County until she was 70, yet the beloved matriarch’s gentle hands nurtured an enduring legacy through generation after generation and more than 350 offspring.
“Wisdom and knowledge are the gifts she’s given us,” great-grandson Darnell Jenkins said at her birthday party last May.
“She was calm, always in order, peaceful,” granddaughter Kathy Hatcher said. “She was a sense of stability for me as a child.”
“She told us to trust in God, take one day at a time and everything would be OK,” said daughter Ruttnet Salter.
Those words resonate with the family now more than ever.
Mrs. Murrell passed away Thursday morning.
She was 105.
Word spread quickly throughout the Murrell family, most of whom live in Manatee or nearby, as well as Fort Lauderdale and Miami and Georgia and New York.
“Can’t feel anything, but a blessing,” Salter said. “You’re just never ready for them go, no matter how long they stay.”
“I’m sad, but we all got to go that way one day, too,” said Adella Holmes, Mrs. Murrell’s oldest daughter at 85. “She was a God-fearing woman and she was ready to go.”
“She lived a good life,” said Louis Murrell Sr., her youngest son.
Mrs. Murrell, who is pre-deceased by husband Flozell Sr., came to Rubonia 60 years ago from Iron City, Ga., a tiny farming community about 100 miles north of Tallahassee.
Her family followed her, working in the fields, up before dawn to pick cotton. They were tenant farmers provided with living quarters, a share of the crop’s profits in exchange for working the land.
Regardless, Mrs. Murrell made do with what little they had.
“Everything we wore, she made from 200-pound fertilizer sacks,” daughter Eva Coleman said in 2001. “Mama bleached them so we didn’t have those big old letters saying ‘Fertilizer’ coming down our backs. Then she took the sides with no ‘Fertilizer’ on them and made tablecloths.”
Working those fields was a lesson grandson Louis Murrell Jr. never forgot.
“It builds character, makes you independent and a hard worker. Carrie instilled that in all of us,” he said.
“She raised her own children, then helped to try and raise us,” granddaughter Annette Chapman said.
Visits to Grandma’s house left wonderful memories.
“My favorite thing was to run over ... and climb in her bed and sleep,” granddaughter Debbie Smith said in 2001. “It was the biggest bed in the whole wide world to me with clean white sheets that were never crinkly. I was safe, it was a comfort zone for me and I thank God for that. Not that my bed at home wasn’t good enough, but it was just something about being in Grandma’s house.”
As Smith got older, there was something else she received from her grandmother, which she appreciates even more now.
“How a woman should carry herself, how a woman should present herself, and I know it had to come from her,” she said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.