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Meet 100-year-old sweet Sue Malone

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As a girl growing up in Fayetteville, her friends called her Bert, but over the past few decades, her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren have nicknamed her Mamaw.

Meet sweet Sue Malone, born Bertha Sue Campbell, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 1, one of the hardest-working Tennessee women you'll ever hope to meet. Malone was either operating her own restaurants, where she must have served a million slices of her homemade pies, or waitressing for the popular chains Shoney's and Cracker Barrel.

It was only after retiring at the age of 79 that she finally got around to making some "me time" for herself as she found joy in beauty pageants (winning the Ms. Sr. Cumberland County Pageant and being named Miss Congeniality in the Ms. Senior Upper Cumberland Pageant in Cookeville) and traveling the world.

Malone and her late husband, Hudson "Hut" Malone, produced four daughters: Gail, Louise, Peggy and Deborah. She also has 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. For the past three years, she has resided in Mt. Juliet with her daughter, Gail.

Sue lived with daughter and son-in-law, Gail and Gordon Moerdyk, in Crossville from 1995 to 2014, where she mowed their yard up until age 97.

"I mowed that five acres every week until I moved here. I could get on that mower and just ride and not think of nothing. I'd do it now if I had a mower. That's my therapy. I love to mow," said the happy centenarian, who added, "I just gave my car away but I didn't turn in my driver's license."

Malone appears to be in great health. She needs no cane or walker to navigate. Asked how she made it to 100, she answered, "All the kids say by working hard."

Of her centennial birthday bash that brought 150 friends and relatives to wish her well, she said, "They had a party for me that wouldn't quit."

Among the event's highlight was having the crowd sing her the 1920s hit song, "If You Knew Susie." The song begins "If you knew Susie, like I know Susie, Oh, oh, oh, what a girl, There's none so classy, As this fair lassie, oh, oh."

Evidently, Mr. Malone thought the same. They met on a double date, however, his date was Sue's sister. Soon afterward, he invited Sue to a movie, and they married June 16, 1934. She was 17, and he was 23.

In 1954 the couple moved to Daytona, Fla., where she waitressed at two cafés. Returning to Fayetteville in 1958, they spooned out delicious meals at The Fork Truck Stop until 1963.

"I was the boss," says Sue of that venture. "I did everything from cooking to waiting on tables and pumping the gas."

In the mid-1960s, they relocated to Murfreesboro and opened Hut's, a café on the square, and the family lived in quarters above the café.

"I did all of it, cooking and waiting tables. Everything that had to be done," she recalled of Hut's, a meat-and-three that was open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. The menu starred Sue's home cooking, notably her fried chicken, meat loaf, macaroni and cheese and other dishes.

The meat-and-three cost 65 cents, and a piece of pie was 15 cents.

"The customers came to get her pies, and she gave good portions," said daughter Gail.

Sue noted, "I made banana pudding and about 16 pies a day including coconut, cherry, apple, pecan, chess, chocolate and lemon ice box,"

Alas, nowadays, Sue confesses, "I don't cook."

Her daughters picked up a thing or two about cooking along the way.

"All four of us dabbled in catering. Grease in the blood, I guess," said Gail, who dropped the fact that one sister operates Deborah West's Catering out of Franklin.

Malone opened one more restaurant, Sue's, on 8th Avenue in Nashville in 1976. Bowing out of operating eateries, she went back to seating diners and waiting tables.

She took a four-year turn as a hostess at the Shoney's near Harding Place and then spent six years as a waitress at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant near 100 Oaks, where she was named waitress of the year at the age of 75.

Shortly after getting settled in Crossville and retired, Sue lost her husband. It was then that Gail noticed that her mom "was moping around and didn't know what to do with herself."

She encouraged her to get involved at the Fair Park Senior Center, and it was there that the center's executive director, Peggy Houston, challenged her to enter the 1996 Ms. Senior Cumberland County pageant.

"To my surprise," said Gail, "she wanted to be in the pageant. We went to look for an evening gown and found one that looked like it was from 'Downton Abbey.' I didn't think she should be too bold."

Malone captured first place at the county fair in Crossville and went on to Cookeville for the regional contest. Unbeknownst to her daughters, she found a different dress with the help and encouragement of Frances Cunningham, who dressed pageant contenders for years in Crossville and surrounding areas.

"We were really surprised when she debuted it before our very eyes at the Ms. Senior Upper Cumberland Pageant in Cookeville, and it was definitely not a shy time for her," recalled Gail.

For her talent, Malone, who loved to dance, wore a Charleston flapper girl dress and wowed the crowd by dancing "The Charleston," a feat she repeated not long ago during a Fun Night Showcase at Fairfield Glade in Crossville.

After her initial involvement in her first Ms. Senior Tennessee Pageant, she still serves on its board of directors and hospitality committee. She also volunteered two days a week at the Fair Park Senior Center's New Horizon adult daycare program.

In her 80s and 90s, Malone also found great delight in traveling around the globe as she visited England, Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Alaska.

These days she continues to enjoy the company of family and church friends and watching the TV shows "Jeopardy," "Wheel of Fortune" and "Judge Judy."

Gail described her mother, saying, "She's fun. She's jolly. She likes to do things, is cooperative and is always making sure her kids are all OK. She's a real family lady."

One final question for the 100-year-young-at-heart Sue "Bert" "Mamaw" Malone: Does she wish she was 18 again?

"That wouldn't be bad, I guess," she answers. "It'd be nice to know what I know now when I was 18."

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