By Ralphine Major
“I was a coal miner’s daughter,” she told me, “like Loretta Lynn.” But this coal miner’s daughter is from Tennessee. Maxine Washington celebrated her 90th birthday on Sunday, October 26, 2014, at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church where she has been a member since 1960. She joined one year after Dr. Jim McCluskey became the pastor.
Born in Scott County, Tennessee, Maxine’s family later moved to Campbell County. After high school graduation, Maxine moved to Kingsport, Tennessee, to work for Tennessee Eastman. The only other education Maxine had was some short business college courses. She worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for Stone & Webster Construction Company, but during the war her father transplanted the family north to Akron, Ohio. There, Maxine worked for the Goodyear Rubber Plant. After many years of service, she asked for and was granted some time off to visit her brother, Don, who was stationed at the Navy base in Memphis. When Maxine’s boss told her she could not leave, Maxine said she was going anyway. She recalls her boss’s reply: “ ‘Well, don’t expect to have a job here when you get back.’ ”
“That’s fine with me,” Maxine said. After visiting her brother, she stopped by Oak Ridge and procured a job as a cubicle operator girl at Y-12—where uranium was refined for the bomb. After the war, she worked as the bookkeeper for The University of Tennessee’s (UT’s) Agriculture Experiment Station in Knoxville.
Maxine has lived in the same home since 1959. Her late husband, Alan Washington, was aNavy Pilot who flew in the Pacific during World War II and spent thirty years in the reserves. His career as a U.S. Civil Service Investigator, which began in Oak Ridge during the civil rights movement, took them to Memphis. Maxine fondly remembers when Alan took her across the Mississippi River to see Jerry Lee Lewis perform before he was famous. After living in Memphis for a year, they were homesick for East Tennessee and came back. Maxine has five children, many grandchildren, and even a great-great-grandson. She also has two living brothers, ages 88 and 86.
Today, Maxine regularly attends church services and Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) meetings; she is the secretary/treasurer of her JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last) Sunday School class—the only class to which she has belonged; and she goes on mission trips to Appalachia. She even went on Wallace Memorial’s first mission trip with Jim and Lib McCluskey to Grenada in 1979 where Dr. Carter and Charlotte Davis were serving as missionaries. She also went to Costa Rica where former church member and missionary Pat Stooksbury served.
The 90 year old who water-skied on Norris Lake in her early years is still active for her age, eats an apple every day, is amazed by technology advances, and is quick to recognize the source of her strength. “The Lord has been good to me, and I thank Him every day for it,” she said. “I am forever grateful –- I can’t ask for anything more.” Maxine is truly blessed, and she is a blessing to all of us who know her!