Mrs. Blow raised five sons for success, then made her own career

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Freddie Mae Rhodes Blow, currently serving as elected member of the Bienville Parish School Board, has lived most of her life just south of Highway 80 in the incorporated limits of Gibsland, Louisiana. "Our family's first home was next door to where I live now. Life in this small town is fine. It's a lot better for kids than those in big cities who are left to run loose while their parents are away at work, I think. They would be much better off in a small town like Gibsland." Ms. Blow said.

Blow's home is a museum of sorts with artwork and family memorabilia displayed throughout. A scrapbook page on the table is opened to a photo of two World War II Buffalo soldiers in action. The soldier on the right is Fred Rhodes, Ms. Blow's father. A cast iron kettle on a coffee table belonged to a paternal great grandparent of her children.

Trophies earned by children and grandchildren decorate a living room corner and awards and plaques of recognition for Ms. Blow's achievements and contributions to her community are lined along a wall. Prominent in a front room is a large photograph of grandson, Frederick Jr. signing a letter of interest to play football for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"Bringing up a family of five boys alone wasn't easy," she said. Freddie Mae and her husband had separated when their sons were young. "I had quit college lacking 12 hours to graduate. I worked at ConAgra chicken processing plant for a time and then for USDA. In 1966 a job as aide/secretary opened up at the Gibsland School. I managed to get that and it helped some, but not enough. The boys and I raised hogs and cows and we had a garden across the road. We never were on food stamps."

"I set forth rules for my sons early on; 1. Go to school EVERY DAY. 2. Attend church. 3. Respect yourself and others, 4. WORK, that means, get up out of bed and DO something. That didn't necessarily mean all work and no play, but read good books instead of watching TV all day. 5. Don't lie. Let your word be your bond, and 6. Do what is right," she said.

"While the boys were growing up, my family was good to help and my Grandfather kept asking me, 'when are you going back to school?' Others encouraged me to go forward with my education. After a time I began attending classes at Grambling in the summer, and, in 1975, I graduated with a BS Degree. Once I got back in the college routine, things just fell in place and after a time I graduated with a Master's Degree plus 30 at Louisiana Tech, and then over the years, pursued further studies at Northwestern."

Freddie Mae Blow's sons now range in age from 40 to 49. Frederick, the oldest works for Chevron, in Baytown, Texas; Frank works for Haynes International, and lives in Gibsland; Marvin is Associate Warden at the Federal Prison in Yazoo, Mississippi; Douglas is a photographer and teaches at Minden High School; Charles Blow is the Op-Ed Columnist at the New York Times.

Mrs. Blow's work history covers 33 plus years in the Bienville Parish School system, Gibsland-Coleman and Ringgold High as Aide, Secretary, Teacher, and Administrative Assistant. She retired from the school system in 2001 but is still active in many organizations. She was elected as Bienville Parish School Board Member in October of 2010. She stays actively involved in the lives of her sons and their families. She has eleven grandchildren.

"Raising a family alone is hard but it can be done. This small town setting was good for my children. We lived in a close community and my sons were fortunate in having that good influence. The school had caring teachers and a good sports program. I love this town, and I'm glad to be here," Freddie Mae said.