As a child, Mary Lou Gregg allowed stories to roost in her head until they grew into novels, but she never completed any writing until she finished her second career. Living a busy life, she did not think she could spare minutes at the keyboard every day. Mary wrote some poems and short stories, which she always tossed into the trash can. When her life was the busiest ever, she could no longer suppress the desire to write. Experiences had shown her what she needed to say. The compulsion to tell her stories grabbed her and wouldn’t let go. Every morning beginning at four o’clock, she spent two hours writing.
She grew up on a hill farm on the county line south of Taylorsville, Mississippi, and north of Hot Coffee. Her folks sat around the fireplace on winter nights with pecans to roast and shell, while they competed to see who could tell the most intriguing stories. On summer evenings, they sat on the front porch, where they shelled peas and beans, while their parents told more tales. Sometimes they sat quietly and listened to the bobcats, owls, and whippoorwills.
The youngest of five children who lived to adulthood, she is the only survivor. One of her desires is to pass on a legacy to her nieces, nephews, and daughter. Writing a family memoir is a project she’s working on. All her Gregg relatives and their acquaintances are welcome to send Mary anecdotes containing memories of the Gregg family to include in the book. So far, she has received some poignant and humorous stories.
All her life, curiosity has led her to read and study. In high school, she took every available subject and continued to take courses after earning her B. A. She attended five colleges in Mississippi.
She taught English and other subjects. When her daughter, Christie, was young, Mary worked part-time so she could spend as much time at home as possible. At the age of forty, she enrolled in the Louisiana Tech Nursing Program and two years later began working as a hospital RN.
After forty years with Robert Cheatham, a phenomenal trumpeter who taught at Louisiana Tech, where he inspired generations of great musicians before he died of a variant of a rare neuromuscular disease in 2002, Guillain Barré Syndrome, which seldom causes death, Mary spent more than a decade single and unattached.
Then she married John Cooke—a retired petroleum landman, history scholar with a degree from Emory, bird watcher, excellent cook, newshound, and faithful follower of Christ. They have a happy life. John has four grandchildren and four children with mates.
Now Christie lives in west Texas with her husband, Brandt. As a dairy nutritionist, Dr. Christie Underwood advises dairy farmers. Brandt, an agronomist, offers aid and advice to farmers challenged by a semi-arid climate.
In 2019, Mary and her husband John moved to Ransom Canyon, Texas, down the street from Christie and Brandt. John spent 2019 recovering from stage IV cancer. Mary and John are hiding from COVID-19—so far successfully.
She writes. She goes to bed with a notebook and pen by her bed. The highlight of her day is the scheduled time she spends writing. When she can spare thirty minutes, she turns on her computer and spends three hours. Books about writing and about whatever subject she is researching clutter her personal space. Her thirst for ways to improve her craft has sent her to workshops and meetings with fellow writers. She reads, mostly the works of fellow authors who have become her friends. She maintains her website, MaryLouCheatham.com.
She writes inspirational fiction with a bit of mystery, mostly historical but sometimes contemporary. Her writing always shows the oppressed, the downtrodden, those mistreated by unkind human beings. A new novel about west Texas, Deep from the Heart, shines the light of God’s love on a group of impoverished people ignored by their neighbors.
In 2020, she released Letter from Belleau Wood, which tells the story of young love during World War I and the 1918 influenza epidemic. The book has received critical acclaim. Mary considers the book’s favorable review by Kirkus a significant accomplishment.