StoryCorps: Remembering A Mother With A Fighting Spirit Rosella Liscum died at age 101 last week after contracting COVID-19. At StoryCorps in 2012, she told her daughter, "Just do what's in your heart. Do what's right and have fun."

'Do What's Right And Have Fun': Remembering A Mother With A Fighting Spirit

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Time again for StoryCorps. This morning, we remember a larger-than-life character. Rosella Pearl Liscum died last week after contracting COVID-19. She was 101 years old. In 2012, she sat down for StoryCorps with her daughter, Marlene Watson.

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MARLENE WATSON: Who was your best friend when you were a young girl?

ROSELLA PEARL LISCUM: Vivian Davis. She was about 6 feet tall. She used to put her arm out, and I'd walk under her arm. I was about 4'10". And she used to chew tobacco. And when her father would be in the chair sleeping, his mouth would be open. And she'd chew that tobacco and then spit that juice right into his mouth. She was a holy terror.

WATSON: Do you remember when the Uhl family moved into town and I became good friends with Joyce? And you were wondering where I was going every day, so you decided to check this out. And you went down to the Uhl house. You introduced yourself to Gert.

LISCUM: Yeah, Gert was a good friend of mine. She was a person that, if she made up her mind, come hell or high water, she was going to do it. And there was no telling her, no, you can't. She did it. She was funny as a crutch. And she liked her beer.

WATSON: You used to disappear every night. And Dad would ask you where you were going, and you would say, I'm going down to Gert's and help her wallpaper. Did you guys really wallpaper?

LISCUM: No.

WATSON: What did you do?

LISCUM: Just get in her car and go somewhere. We were driving along, and all at once, she said, oh, my Lord, look at the nice, big road over there. Oh, she whirled the car right around. And we were going right down the runway, and the airplanes were landing.

WATSON: And you got pulled over by military police.

LISCUM: Well, yeah. They were swarming.

WATSON: Who's Bill Cota?

LISCUM: A good friend of mine.

WATSON: How'd you meet him?

LISCUM: We went to a dance one night. And he went with a bunch of fellows, and I went with friends, you know?

WATSON: When you were in your 80s?

LISCUM: Yeah. And he kept watching me. So finally, he came over and asked me to dance.

WATSON: You said you were nervous riding home with him.

LISCUM: Oh, yeah. I had my hand right on the doorknob. If his hands came anywhere near me, I was out that door.

WATSON: Did he ask you for a date?

LISCUM: Well, they had dances every week. And he said, if you want, I'll come over and pick you up, and we'll go to the dance.

WATSON: How did you know that you were falling in love with Bill?

LISCUM: He was just different than the rest of them, somebody I can depend on.

WATSON: Are you glad you took the chance on him?

LISCUM: Well, yes. It would be just a vacant spot in my life. It's just like coffee without sugar. There was one woman to the dance one night, and she came over, and she whispered something to him. And I kept my eye on her. And finally, she grabbed him by the hand. And I went right over to her. I said, if he doesn't want to dance with you, move on.

WATSON: As my younger daughter would say, grandma is the one who taught me how to fight.

LISCUM: Well, if you know you are right, you stick to it. You don't let nobody sway you one way or another. Just do what's in your heart. Do what's right, and have fun.

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FADEL: Rosella Pearl Liscum speaking with her daughter, Marlene Watson. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress.

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