I wrote this little piece to honor my mother and my aunt Crystell. We were informed last week that the Tucumcari Chapter of the DAR had chosen them as their “Historic Women of Quay County for 2015” or something like that. So my cousin Janis called to let me know the luncheon was coming up, and then she said, “They asked me to write something about my mom and your’s. I say YOU are going to be the one to write it.” So I started writing.
I am from a huge family. You can’t swing a cat in Quay County without hitting one of my cousins, whether first, second, twice removed or very distant. Janis is my double cousin. My mother and her mother married two Terry brothers. We are all kin to each other.
I’m most proud to be kin to these two, the women about whom I write. And my Dad, but the DAR didn’t choose him this time around.
Here’s what I wrote:
Crystell and Betty Terry weren’t always Terry girls. Back in the day, before they married those Terry boys, they were Ayres girls, the last two babies born to Frank and Myrtle Ayres. Frank and his bachelor brother, known to everyone as Uncle Tom, moved Frank’s family to Porter, a small town in Quay County, to homestead in 1919, so you can safely say that the Ayres family has been here for almost 100 years.
Crystell was born in 1931, at home with two midwives attending. The story is that her’s was the most difficult birth Mrs. Ayres had ever endured, and when she arrived, Frank told the midwives to go ahead and name the baby. “Mama’s just too tired,” he supposedly said.
So one of them chose the name “Crystell,” after a character in a Ranch Romance Magazine story. The other midwife chose “Bernice” as a middle name.
Betty was born a couple of years later at the hospital in Tucumcari, something her mother thought would never happen. After having nine babies at home, Mrs. Ayres heard from her doctor that she’d need to have this one in town. She went along, and had her last baby away from the comforts of home.
Crystell got the glamorous name and three years later, Betty got the city birth. Both were auspicious beginnings for a couple of amazing women.
These two little girls grew up together in the Porter community, with three older brothers who went off to World War II and five older sisters who were well known throughout the County for their a cappella singing ability. While the big girls sang around the kitchen table at night with their parents, Crystell and Betty lay under the table on a pallet and planned their future. When their oldest brother, Edward, returned from the Pacific a few years later with a pair of binoculars, they lay on the chicken house roof and trained the spyglasses on the Terry farm across the hill, hoping for a glimpse of Marvin and Kenneth.
In 1948, Crystell married Marvin. Betty scoffed at the idea of marrying a farmer, saying she planned to marry a rich businessman. Two years later she married Marvin’s younger brother, Kenneth.
Between the two of them, Betty and Cris raised five daughters (three for Crystell, two for Betty) and two sons who were born to Betty, but were as much Marvin and Crystell’s as they could be. Scrimping and saving, the Ayres-now-Terry girls made a joyous, loving, and laughter-filled life for their men and their children out of almost nothing. Farming was hard work with minimal income, but it was the best way to raise a family.
They were faithful, attending the San Jon Baptist Church together until Betty and Kenneth left San Jon and moved to Logan in 1963, moving their membership to the Logan First Baptist Church. For the first time ever, Crystell and Betty and their families weren’t worshipping in the same place. But they ended up together anyway, because every Sunday afternoon was spent at either the home of Mrs. Terry or Mrs. Ayres, with Sunday dinner served up for dozens of sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews.
Marvin and Cris stayed in San Jon, and Crystell worked for over 25 years as the school secretary.
Countless students passed through the office over that time, always rewarded with her encouraging smile and kind words. The three daughters grew up and created families of their own. After she retired from the school and Marvin retired from his magistrate judge position, they eventually found their way to Tucumcari. In 2012, Marvin passed away, leaving Crystell alone for the first time in 62 years. She took a bit of time to get her bearings, and then immediately got busy substitute teaching and volunteering at the hospital. In addition to the three daughters, Cris has six grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and two great-greats.
Kenneth and Betty farmed for ten years and then moved into Logan, opening first a successful restaurant and then several other businesses. They were volunteer EMT’s for over 20 years, getting up in the middle of Sunday dinner or the middle of the night to go out for yet another ambulance run. They were never paid for this service, but they did it because it was the right thing to do. Kenneth was the volunteer fire chief for years, which meant that Betty spent those years with a shovel or a hose in hand, fighting fires alongside her husband of now almost 65 years. Betty is now, at 80, the local florist along with running a gift shop and clothing store. She has eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with another on the way this July.
The Ayres–now-Terry girls have never slowed down. From those nights under the kitchen table to the present, at 80 and 84, they have continued to be best friends. They have worked and volunteered and cared for their families and their communities for year. They have touched countless hearts and lives and Quay County wouldn’t be the same without them. We are pleased to honor them today.