Mary Niecea Bankston (Mary B.) Rogers

Published 2:52 am Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Mary Niecea Bankston (Mary B.) Rogers, 81, of Rock Hill, S.C., died peacefully Saturday, Oct. 12, at Hospice and Community Care in Rock Hill, S.C.

She was born in Bogalusa on June 16, 1932 to Clay C. and Viola Penton Bankston.

She is survived by her husband of 58 years, William A. (Bill), of Rock Hill; Robyn Norvell and her husband, T.C., of Soldotna, Alaska; Ruth Ann (Rikki) Moye and her husband, Mitchell, of Sherman, Texas; Allen and his wife, Denee, of Georgetown, S.C.; and Mary Alice, of Rock Hill; five grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; and a very special little black dog named Ambitious.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister, Ellen Rae, and her brother, Fredrick (Bo) Bankston.

While her family grieves her death, they celebrate the life she led. She loved animals of nearly all species, was a devoted wife, mother and daughter, treasured sister and devious prankster.

She raised her four children in the pre-airbag, pre-bike helmet, pre-hand sanitizer days of the 1960s and 1970s. She spent many weekends ferrying her brood in various station wagons, including a pink one with fins, from Bay Minette, Ala., to her parents’ home in Bogalusa, without seatbelts, FM radio or air conditioning – but with a loaded pistol in the ashtray in case she encountered any riffraff along the way. She had a wonderful, strong voice and provided the music on those trips, singing songs like Let’s Go Fly A Kite and a depressing little ditty called Poor Babes in the Woods, which would reduce all four offspring to sniffling tears. Whether she was crooning to her children or refereeing their fights over window seats, she drove those station wagons like she was qualifying at Daytona. Thanks to Mary B., her children learned that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t the only car that could fly.

Her penchant for speed was so well recognized by her son that he was concerned when she got her very first new car in her early ’50s. After years of hauling children around in lumbering behemoths, she got a red, six-cylinder Ford Mustang. She would drive a Mustang of some vintage for many years until arthritic knees forced her to use a Rascal scooter, which necessitated the purchase of a minivan.

She was a mouse killer of extraordinary skill. According to family lore, she took out one unfortunate rodent by turning her husband’s boot into a lethal projectile. The blow was so forceful that it knocked out the creature’s eyes, causing the oldest daughter to quickly develop an understanding that, “You don’t mess with Mama. She’ll knock your eyeballs out.” She also dispatched a mouse with a BB gun and another with an encyclopedia.

She and her husband loved the South Alabama woods, where he worked as a forester. They often took the young family on outings into those woods where meals were cooked over an open fire. She taught her children that dropping their hot dogs or marshmallows onto the ground was no reason for despair. “You’ll eat a pound of dirt before you die. Pick that up and knock the sand off of it.”

She loved fishing with all her heart. Nothing made her happier than sitting in a webbed aluminum folding chair at Alabama Point, casting the day away. Her bait of choice was squid. Hour after hour, she would fish. She was equally at home and happy fishing from a boat on the dark rivers of South Alabama, unless she saw a snake. The first sighting of a snake was met with the proclamation, “We have to go home.” It didn’t matter that the snake was across the lake or on the other side of the river. On one memorable trip to Live Oak Landing in south Alabama, she trudged up to the cabin, asking her husband to identify the snake she had just killed on the river bank. She dispatched the hapless victim with a limb the size of a two-by-four. In doing so, she churned up a 6-by-6 foot area of soil any farmer would have been happy to claim he had plowed. While he couldn’t identify the snake from its pulverized remains, Bill did confirm the kill.

Mary B. loved classic monster movies and scaring her children while they watched them. Her children learned to keep one eye on their mother while watching “Frankenstein”, “The Wolfman” and “Dracula.” If they became too engrossed in the movie, they were sure to get a “gotcha!” She also loved Halloween when her children were young. She was thrilled when a parent, accompanying a group of children on a trick-or-treat outing told her, “They’re scared to death to come here, but this is the first house they want to visit!” From creating fake graves with pine straw to putting stereo speakers in the windows to blast out the sounds of creaking doors, crashing thunder, howling dogs and ghostly moans, she made Halloween memorable.

She also loved Christmas. One year when her children were young, and as her husband struggled to put together toys in the living room, she ran outside again and again to throw rocks onto her home’s tin roof and yell, “Merry Christmas!” Each time, three children would run down the stairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa. And each time, her husband had to hide the toys that Santa would eventually leave. It was a great night for her and a long night for him.

She was a consummate cook who could take a few, simple ingredients and make delicious meals. She put those skills on display every summer when the family camped in a tent at Gulf State Park. From gumbo made with freshly caught blue crabs to cake baked in an oven on a Coleman stove, she usually prepared three meals a day on her “vacation.”

She worked inside and outside the home. In the early 1950s, she graduated from Baylor College of Nursing in Dallas, and worked as a labor and delivery nurse in Louisiana and Alabama. But the bulk of her life was spent raising children and running a household. She briefly found a new career in the early 1980s at a gym in Texas, leading legendary exercise classes and selling memberships.

In her 81 years, Mary B. created a lifetime of memories. Choosing a few to highlight is a challenge. The most comforting thought is that she no longer is in pain.

A funeral service and visitation will be held at Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2 p.m., at Greene Funeral Home, Northwest Chapel, 2133 Ebenezer Road in Rock Hill. The family will receive friends following the service at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Southside Baptist Church, 1229 S. Anderson Road, Rock Hill, SC 29730.

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