A friend and relative of Mrs. Margene Gregory Todd called me a while back to suggest I write about her. She was born and raised here in Decatur, then married and settled in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I had to call her to interview by phone, but I was glad for the suggestion.
Margene, or Jeannie to her classmates in Decatur, was born April 1, 1941, to Grady and Allie Jewel Allgood Gregory, who lived west of Decatur near County Pond. Her daddy was a cotton farmer, while her mother took care of the home until later when she worked first at the Newton pants factory then later at the Decatur shirt factory. Mrs. Todd’s siblings are Bobby Gregory, deceased, Glenda Ruth Gregory Jeffcoats, Grady Earl Gregory, and Gary Clark Gregory.
In 1959, Margene graduated from Decatur High School, where she was a cheerleader and played basketball. She attended East Central Junior College for 1½ years, also cheering there. She remembered something about her daddy, saying, “He was so precious. When we went on those college ball trips, the cheerleaders rode with the coaches’ wives. Daddy would be sitting in his truck waiting when we got back in the wee hours.” She continued, “I never saw my parents ever have an argument. He worshiped my mother. They ran away and got married when she was sixteen. Then, they bought a house on Allgood Road where they raised five children.”
Margene told me she was brought up in Crossroads Baptist Church, which her great-grandfather John Allgood, who came here from England, had helped build. He helped build all the pews which have now been replaced. They attended church every Sunday and when they had revivals. She remembered, “My mother was a very devout Christian and taught me in Sunday School. I accepted Christ in Crossroads when I was about eight or nine years old and was baptized in a cow pond along with my sister and my brother.”
While visiting her sister and working in a jewelry store one summer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Margene met Waitus Herbert Todd, Jr., from South Carolina. About a year later, they married on January 21, 1961, in Clarke-Venable Memorial Baptist Church but continued attending Crossroads. Mr. Todd began working for the Federal Aviation Agency, taking care of airplane instrument landings, and they moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where their three children were born.
Herbert Melvin Todd was born December 05, 1961; Sheila Margene Todd was born Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1962; and Robert Earl Todd was born November 25, 1965.
Melvin Todd became a mechanical engineer and developed inventions for his company. He also started Ms. Allie’s Café, in Marshville, North Carolina, named in honor of his grandmother. His wife is Tara from Florida, and they have two boys — Michael and Ryan. Margene’s daughter Sheila is a court reporter in Greenville, South Carolina, and has two daughters, Haley Margene and Summer Jewel. Sheila is married to David Small, an engineer working with dialysis. Robert Earl Todd, a landscaper, is married to Betsy, a teacher. They live in South Carolina, and he has three children, Megan Elizabeth Todd, Benjamin Robert Todd, and Adam Richard Todd.
When Margene’s husband’s parents began needing help, they moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to be near them, where he continued working for the FAA. Margene had been very involved in the Zoar Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so leaving had become a cause of depression for her. She confided, “I would read my Bible every morning and pray and ask God to give me something to do so I wouldn’t think about that church anymore.”
She remembered one Sunday a wounded veteran from the area, Mr. Clebe McClarity, attended their church, Ocean View Baptist, to give his testimony. Three others, including Bobby Richardson, a famous baseball player, were there with him. When they sang a song, one of the men signed the song for the deaf. She felt the Lord say, “That’s what I want you to do,” to which she answered, “I can’t do that. You’ll have to give me a sign. I don’t even know anyone who is deaf.”
She told me, “The next morning, I put my Bible down and began doing housework. There was a knock at the door. When I opened it, a man handed me a card, which said, ‘I’m deaf. Can you give me some money?’ He soon moved away, so I asked the Lord, ‘What am I to do?’” She called all around to schools, churches, etc., but no one offered sign language classes. She discovered a deaf school in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, founded by Rev. Bill Rice, for his daughter who was deaf. With her mother-in-law keeping her three children, she attended there for two weeks in two consecutive summers and learned the skill enough to begin her ministry. She told the Lord, “You have called me to this and I will find a deaf person and start the ministry.”
Discovering a deaf woman a block away from her home, she approached her and asked if she would help her. The woman was excited to help, taught her the names of many items, and introduced her to other deaf persons. Margene was given a book about signs, kept learning, and in 2006 went to a university in Knoxville, Tennessee, to take a one-month class. She took deaf people to church at Ocean View Baptist, began teaching a Sunday School class for them, and began signing the pastor’s sermon every Sunday. She would not sleep on Saturday nights for several years, but would study his sermon outline and the scriptures.
Her pastor, Rev. Kirk Lawton, had a heart for the deaf because in college his roommate had been deaf. He supported the ministry for years before moving on, and the pastor now is Rev. Terry Scalzetti. She has been doing this for over forty years, and her church is still the only church in that area with a ministry to the deaf. Ocean View has three services on Sunday morning, with at least six hundred in each service.
Margene just returned from taking a group of deaf people to the Ark in Kentucky, the latest trip of many she has taken with her ministry. Some of the highlights have been the Space Center in Florida, Disney World, Carlsbad Caverns, the Amish country in Pennsylvania, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
She is also called on in her area to help doctors with deaf persons having surgeries, and lawyers in court. She has done many funerals for the deaf, as well as signing Bible conferences.
Mrs. Margene Todd, having lost her husband in 1999 to cancer, is getting older and says, “I keep trying to get someone to take the ministry over, but I’ll keep helping until the day I die.” She commented, “Life’s really like a puzzle. God puts us together, one piece at a time. You take all the pieces and put them together, and you will have God’s completed puzzle of your life.”
Live for Jesus! He’s coming soon!
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