Flickr / Creative Commons / David Goehring

Pie Ladies

Comedian Jack Handy once wrote: “When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if it’s not, mmmmmmmm, boy.”

Making a pie from scratch is becoming a lost art.

In a world dominated by microwave meals and fast food, that act of making a pie is just too time-consuming. Who has a couple of hours to spend creating a delicious, flaky crust and the perfect sweet or savory filling? What young child – or hungry spouse – is willing to wait for the finished product to bake and cool?

The desire for a good pie is still there, though, and many people fill it by turning to frozen pies made in factories or preservative-laden snack pies that have the same shelf life as uranium. Unwilling to sacrifice taste for convenience – and unable to learn at a grandma’s knee – I taught myself how to make a pie. I just picked up several cookbooks, a pie plate, a pastry brush and a rolling pin, and started practicing.

Now I’m a “pie lady.” I bake a pie almost every week (much to my husband’s joy and chagrin). Pumpkin, dutch apple, banana cream – each dessert is filled with flavor and served with love.

In the past year, quite a few “pie ladies” have passed on. Let us take a moment to remember them:

* Genevieve “Gram” Alexander died on Oct. 13, 2010 at the age of 92. During the final years of her life, Alexander kept busy making quilts, pillows and sock monkeys, but she was “best known for the pies that she loved to bake.”

* Dorothy Lee Hammonds McGaha Patterson died on Feb. 19, 2011 at the age of 73. The lifelong resident of Kingsport, Tennessee, was remembered by one friend for always being willing to welcome a newcomer to church and “bake their favorite pie.”

* Mary Jo Nolan died on March 5, 2011 at the age of 93. Raised on a farm in Pennsylvania, Nolan loved to dance, read, garden, and of course, bake. Her “favorites were her Northern Spy apple pies and Lady Baltimore cakes, which were made from scratch for birthdays and special occasions.”

* Florrie Miller died on Feb. 9, 2011 at the age of 86. Miller was known for her culinary skills – particularly baking pie – and her habit of wearing wide hats. She was described in her obit as a “great cook” who “loved to dress and knew how.”

* Clara May Charlesworth died on Jan. 9, 2011 at the age of 89. The Gautier, Mississippi, resident was a founding member of the Pie Ladies Club. A self-driven lady, Charlesworth was the “matriarch of the family and her presence consumed the room she occupied.”

* Marion L. Stangle died on Feb. 13, 2011 at the age of 85. A school lunch manager for two decades, Stangle was fondly known as the “pie lady” at all of her church dinners. As part of her mission work, she helped fill and mail goody boxes to troops serving overseas.

* Lottie Cargnel died on July 23, 2010 at the age of 96. Cargnel was known for her cooking and baking projects, and enjoyed feeding family, friends and neighbors, “even the hobos who rode into town knew where to find the pie lady for a full belly and a taste of small town hospitality.” When she worked at the former Reeves Hotel of New Philadelphia in the 1930s, Cargnel single-handedly doubled pie sales in the dining room “at a time when coming by spare change for a piece of pie was an accomplishment of its own.”

And the next time you dig into a homemade slice of heaven, don’t forget to thank the “pie lady” who baked it for you.

This post was contributed by Jade Walker, the editor of Night Owl News. She writes obituaries for The Blog of Death.