Saturday 21 September 2019
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Everybody Calls Her “Granny” : Margaret Atamachuck Turns 100

Story by Chris Kincade
Photos by Sheila Scott
W hen you enter room 300 at The Oaks in Pooler, you will find a peaceful, delicate being who appears
to be quietly reflecting on life’s mysteries. What you quickly learn as she immediately inquires who
you are and why you are there, is that she is a quick-witted, fiercely strong (despite her frail
composition), passionate and humorous soul, who is eager and willing to take one on a journey that
now covers the span of an entire century.
Everyone knows this captivating presence today as “Granny,” mostly because she earned her title as
a grandmother to eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.
However, she has also become “Granny” to everyone who knows her and has been adopted into her
extended family.
Over one hundred years ago, in 1918, Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States of
America; the value of a dollar would be equivalent to that of sixteen dollars today; and daylight
savings had been implemented for the first time. It is on December 12, 1918, where our story begins
with the lady we all affectionately call “Granny.” Margaret Atamachuck (Granny) was born in the
Northeastern part of North Carolina along the Roanoke River in a town called Plymouth, North
Carolina to Robert and Lorena Jackson Gurganus. She was the third in a line of eight children and
was the first girl in the growing family. They were a farming family which meant long days and tiring
physical daily labor. Her brothers worked on the farm with the manual tasks, her sisters managed
various tasks around the farm and house, and Granny focused on what would become two of her best-
known skills and talents – cooking and sewing. She became a rather talented seamstress, making the
clothes for her brothers and sisters out of flour sacks which were made of a cotton material.
They had very little in means of material items and food while living on the farm, and Granny spent
any idle moments dreaming of a day when she would meet and marry a wealthy man from the city. A
young man in the area, two years her senior, came from a family that earned a comfortable living
through real estate at the time. Granny was a stunningly beautiful young woman who stood about 5’7”
with long black hair that curled around her hypnotic smile. This young man, named Michael
Atamachuck, had already fallen for her at first sight before ever officially being introduced to her.
Around that time period, Dr. Pepper was running advertisements which displayed beautiful young
women holding a bottle of Dr. Pepper in some manner. Pulling reference from these advertisements,
Michael had affectionately nicknamed Granny as “The Dr. Pepper Girl” and spoke of her often. A
mutual friend told him that she knew his “Dr. Pepper Girl” and he pleaded with her to introduce
them. After that first meeting, he told everyone that would listen that he was going to marry his Dr.
Pepper Girl, and he did just that! At the age of 19, Granny married her young man from the city. They
would later complete their family with two beautiful children, Mary Margaret (Maggie), and Michael
“He was my always,” explained Granny. “We were married for 61 years, and that’s a long time to be
with the same person! We never traded for anyone else, and we never wanted anyone else. I knew he
loved me and he knew I loved him. When you are satisfied with each other, you never need anyone
“They always held hands anywhere they went,” explained their daughter, Maggie. “I never heard
them argue. I am sure that they did argue, but they never did in front of my brother and I!”
“I love both of my children! I’m so proud of them and I am just happy I’ve got them. My husband
absolutely worshipped our children,” explained Granny.
“And we worshipped him,” added her daughter, Maggie quickly. “I took two steps to his one!”
Michael worked a full-time job and ran a small business out of their home for extra income. Granny
managed the house, the children, and handled the books for her husband’s business. She carried her
childhood learned skill of being a seamstress into her adult and married life by making clothes for her
children and later for her grandchildren as well.
Granny has seen such incredible and numerous changes in her lifetime, from cost of living changes,
to women working and voting, and the Civil Rights movement. She has seen the inventions of the hair
dryer, indoor plumbing, frozen food, the toaster, electric razors, microwaves, televisions, computers,
cellular phones and technology in general, yet Granny was most impressed by the automobile. She
learned to drive later in life where the passion came easily and without hesitation, but often lacking
the necessary skill. “My kids said I always drove too fast,” laughed Granny.
“Daddy was always repairing the car as she often hit garbage cans and other stationary items. He
had to replace the car door after she opened it in front of another moving vehicle,” added Maggie
while laughing.
Granny has now seen eighteen Presidents serve these United States of America, and when asked
who her favorite President was, Granny replied with certainty, “Ronald Reagan! Because he and
Nancy were so devoted to one another, and that is what makes a good marriage. Give and take!”
Faith and loyalty are a common theme in Granny’s life. To live one hundred years carries with it an
amazing gift of life lessons, experiences, as well as, both great love and loss. Granny shared her secret
to living such a full and blessed life that surpasses a century. “The secret to living to 100 is to be happy
and to love the Lord. If you love the Lord, everything works out as it should,” shared Granny.
“When she turned 100, she said she was going to live to 200,” explained Maggie. “I’m going to live
as long as He gives me. You don’t put Him off – when He says ‘GO’ you’ve got to go,” expressed
Granny with a chuckle.
As she leaned in closer to both hear more clearly and connect more intimately, Granny shared what
she might pass along to the next generations. “The best advice I ever received was from the Good
Lord! The Good Lord has blessed me thoroughly all my life,” explained Granny with great sincerity
and passion. “So, the best advice I could give young people today would be to love the Lord with all of
their heart, and don’t lose your head – keep it straight!”
What resonates after taking a journey through a lifetime of memories and experiences with Granny
is her love for her husband, who left her side but never her heart in 1999 to be with God; her love for
her family and extended family; and her love for serving her God so loyally, faithfully, passionately
and unapologetically.
"’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with
all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" – Luke 10:27

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