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Pauline (Wilson) Shoemaker

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PAULINE "POLLY" CARDEN (WILSON) SHOEMAKER Polly Shoemaker was born in Burlington, NC to Eldie Ball and James Ira Carden on April 22, 1924, at the family farmstead "Haw Fields" in a pack barn during an unseasonable snow storm. It marked the first of many adventures and conquests for her. She was the youngest of twelve siblings and the apple of her daddy's eye. As soon as Polly could walk, her mother stitched her a cotton bag from flour sacks, and she went to the fields with her parents and siblings to pick cotton. In high school she was an avid athlete, shooting hoops with the best of the boys; it was then that she began to hone her wicked sense of humor. She loved to laugh! By age sixteen both parents were deceased, and Polly set out to blaze trails as a very independent woman; she was never shy about her opinions. Polly married George Wilson at age seventeen and began a family of her own. George and Polly had six children together, but the advent of World War II left Polly to raise them mostly as a single mother, which she did while working and attending night school at Elon College. If you asked her what was her greatest accomplishment, she would always answer, "Being a mother." There were times when she worked multiple jobs in order to support, feed, and house her children. In the worst of times, she held "round table" meetings with the children to discuss the tight family budget. The children literally cut their teeth on negotiations and shared decision making. Whose needs were the most critical? Rebecca's reading glasses? John's shoes? Carol's Key Club dues? George's science project? It was an invaluable lesson that would serve all her children well as adults, as leaders. By the early '60s Polly was truly a single mother, and Marvin Brown Shoemaker walked into a diner where Polly was both waitressing and cooking. She forever laughed that she thought it was her chili with beans and vegetable beef soup that kept him returning to the diner, "but it was her blue eyes," he always answers. In December of 1963, Marvin and Polly married, and together they added four more children to Polly's family. She loved a house full of children. There were never steps or halves in describing Polly's version of her modern family, only sisters and brothers-and a lot of very funny stories to keep the laughter going. Polly's children include George Wilson (Wendy) of Stone Mountain, GA; Rebecca Walker (Rudy) of Susanville, CA; Carol Sims (Andrew) of Garner, NC; John I. Wilson of Raleigh, NC and Washington, DC; Tim Wilson (Shannon) of Tracy, CA; Toni Elaine Shoemaker (deceased); Ken Shoemaker (Roni) of Dunn, NC; Lynn Shoemaker (Sandy Younce) of Wilmington, NC; and Deb Shoemaker (Russ Maynard) of Wilmington, NC. Baby Randy Shoemaker died at birth and left a huge hole in Polly's heart that she could never fill. Polly has thirteen grandchildren of whom she was always most proud (Dee Wilson, Katie Wilson Phillips, Tad Sims, Tom Sims, Tim Sims, Aleta Palmer, Ron Walker, Melissa Wilson-Bonham, Kenny Wilson, Bonnie Shoemaker, Thomas Younce, Kate Younce, and Marlee Shoemaker Yeates). She also leaves thirteen great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren. For twenty-one years, Polly served as the hostess to the Members' Dining Room of the NC General Assembly. She assisted Howard Finch of Finch's Restaurant in the design and layout of the restaurant as it was built. Throughout the years, she served up hospitality in proud NC style to many dignitaries and officials as well as to six governors, including her grade school chum Robert "Bob" Scott with whom she caught crayfish in Haw River and learned to skate in the Scott's dairy barn as a child. Polly was privy to decades of private legislative conversations that were spilled over quick lunches and dinners. One of her favorite stories was of a Senator complaining about her son, John I. Wilson, who was leading a protest in Jones Street for public school teacher salaries to be nationally competitive after state employees' had their salaries frozen. He directed Polly to stop John's very vocal protest. She asked, "Is John a good teacher?" He answered, "One of the best," and she smiled. "That's what I care about, Senator," was her response as she walked back to her kitchen. Polly reared her children to be advocates for social justice. From the time her children could stand, Polly had them working polls and hammering together political signs, fervently beginning with the Presidential campaign for John F. Kennedy in 1960. Among literally hundreds of candidates from municipal races to presidential ones, Polly was most proud of what she called her "firsts": NC Representative (now Senator) Dan Blue, who would become the first African American to hold the post of Speaker in NC; Governor Bev Perdue, who became the first woman governor of NC; and President Barack Obama, who is our first African American president. There is no doubt that she was eager for the first woman president as well. In 1982, Polly left Raleigh to retire in Wilmington, NC. She retired in paycheck only. For thirty more years she would not only continue to be a community activist and social justice advocate, offering her experienced voice to six mayors and uncounted city council and county commission candidates and officials, but she would also perfect her self-taught skills. No one ever declined an invitation to eat a meal cooked by Polly Shoemaker, and her horticulture talents exceeded those of professionals. Polly could make biscuits from scratch and pound cake to challenge the best culinary chef in the South as effortlessly as she could root and grow a hybrid rose that would scale and cover the house in perfect blooms. She could also flawlessly stitch a child's dress from a fabric remnant without a pattern, all this while watching a granddaughter and politicking for more women to be elected to office. On her 80th birthday, April 22, 2004, by order of the governor, Representative (now Senator) Dan Blue presented Polly with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the most prestigious award granted to North Carolinians who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. She was honored to stand among such recipients as Maya Angelou, Andy Griffith, Coretta Scott King, William Friday, and Billy Graham, though she would add that it is every voting citizen's duty to fight for what is right and just, and thus it should not be an exception to warrant awards. Polly was inducted into the New Hanover County Democratic Party Hall of Fame in 2004, appropriately at the Unity Banquet. Polly made great pomp and circumstance out of taking each of her children to register to vote on their respective eighteenth birthdays. Like getting an education, voting was an absolute expectation by Polly. "You're never too old to learn or to vote," was one of her mantras. Until she was no longer able, Polly made country ham biscuits for election return parties on request, baked hundreds of pecan tarts for political action fundraisers for the NC Association of Educators (NCAE), and stuffed envelopes for school board candidates while making calls for Emily's List candidates. A celebration of Polly Shoemaker's life will begin at Lebanon Chapel in Airlie Gardens with a visitation from 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM followed by a service officiated by John K. Ormand, Jr., M. Th., LPC, on Saturday, December 21, 2013. Senator Dan Blue and former Wilmington Mayor Harper Peterson will offer reflections. Following the service, family will receive friends and family at the home of Deb Shoemaker and Russ Maynard, where Polly's 90th birthday celebration was set to be hosted. Sunday, December 22, family members are invited to Raleigh Memorial Park, 7209 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, where Polly will be laid to rest next to her baby Randy. In lieu of flowers (Polly thought they should be grown not cut), please consider a donation to one of the following: Elderhaus PACE at 2222 S. 17th Street, Wilmington www.elderhaus.com (910) 343-8209; Lower Cape Fear Hospice, 1406 Physicians Drive, Wilmington, NC 28401, www.hospiceandlifecarecenter.org (800) 733-1476; and the NC Foundation for Public School Children, PO Box 27347, Raleigh, NC 27611. Polly's family would like to thank the staff at Elderhaus PACE for their indispensable, dedicated service. A special note of thanks goes to Polly's private caretaker Sandy Martin; our family could not have done without her. Sandy Martin has been our rock. Condolences to the family at www.andrewsmortuary.com Andrews Market St. Chapel
Published in the Wilmington Star-News on Dec. 20, 2013
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