Pistol-packing Mama

By NIKKI ROWELL,

Marion Farrar’s life has included serving as PTA president to sheriff in the past 100 years.

Since her birth in 1919, Marion Farrar has had a lot of titles including mom, wife, friend, grandmother and, for a time, Sheriff.

But among the titles and nicknames that family and friends have lovingly called her over the years, two stand out: “pistol-packing mama” and “tough, old Swede.”

On Marion’s 100th birthday on September 15, her family and friends gathered with her at the Arbor at the Orchard to celebrate a life lived to its fullest with love, compassion, tenacity and hope.

Those are the things that stitch together the memories with Marion that are cherished by those closest to her.

Her daughter, Linda Farrar, could reminisce for hours about her strong, independent mother.

“Mama was a progressive women’s liberal before we even knew what that was,” Linda said. “She has always been so independent.”

For her 90th birthday, Marion celebrated with a ride on a motorcycle. According to an article that ran in the 4-County Electric Power Association newsletter 10 years ago, Marion, then 90, said, “I wanted to jump out of an airplane, but we couldn’t find one. So, we settled for riding a motorcycle.”

Linda said Marion’s goal for her 100th birthday was to finally jump out of an airplane with former President George H.W. Bush. Marion now lives in Ridgeland, where she moved with Linda to be close to family members years ago.

When Marion was sick a couple of years ago, she moved to the Arbor for rehab.

“We’re still hoping she will get better and can get out,” Linda said, talking of the tenacity Marion is known for.

“You’re a tough, old Swede, aren’t you?” Linda asks Marion, referencing Marion’s heritage. “Yeah,” Marion responds.

Marion still holds a valid driver’s license, because when she renewed her license it wasn’t set to expire until 2021. She drove up until she was 94.

If you ask Marion the secret to living a long, full life such as hers, she will put it simply: “Just hang in there.”

“She always says, ‘It could be worse,’” Linda said.

Even when her husband and son passed away, even when she broke both hips or fell sick enough to go into the nursing home, Marion has always tried to find the silver lining and remember that things could be worse, so she tries to always focus on the positive.

As the first woman to be elected sheriff in Noxubee County, Marion has some advice for young women who may feel like there isn’t a place for them in their desired field: “Be whatever you want to be, and don’t ever give up.”

Marion was graduated from Macon High School around 1938. She went to work in the Chancery Clerk’s office.

“She married daddy and during World War II, she and daddy lived in New Orleans and he was in the military police,” Linda said. “My brother was born during World War II, and then they came back to Mississippi.”

Throughout their lives together, Marion and Emmett spent much of their time working in the Sheriff’s office or farming. They were married for about 58 years.

Being elected sheriff was almost predestined for Marion. Her father-in-law Polk Farrar held the position before he died of cancer.

“They asked my grandmother would she be the Sheriff back in 1924,” Linda said. “She said no, but the quote was, ‘I’ll raise you a Sheriff.’”

And she did. Her son Emmett was elected three terms, and Marion was one of the first females to be elected as Sheriff in between two of Emmett’s terms, and she carried the badge from 1960 to 1964.

“My mama carried a gun and a pistol,” Linda said. “She had this little badge and another that she carried in her purse.”

She served as secretary treasurer of the Mississippi Sheriff’s Association and the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association.

“She always worked in the tax collector’s office, and when she got elected, the joke between them was that she was going to pay him twice as much as he paid her,” Linda said. “She said, ‘Two times zero is still zero.’”

Marion served as president of the PTA and the American Legion and was also one of the first Rainbow Girls, all while working and finding ways to give back.

“I say she’s a sneaky Christian. She did good for people all her life without looking for recognition,” Linda said. “And we didn’t have much money.”

She even made homemade meals for all the prisoners while she and her husband served terms as Sheriff and their family lived in the Noxubee County Jail.

Now, her goal is to get well enough to start walking again and to be able to go home with her daughter Linda, who lives in Madison.

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