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Meet Mary Quarterman: Queen for a Day

FAIRMONT — If you attended the Johnnie Johnson Blues and Jazz Society concerts at Palatine Park in the early 2000s, when Johnson, the boogie-woogie piano player and Chuck Berry collaborator came back to his hometown to play, you’d see her.

Mary Quarterman — “Missus Mary,” to all who know her — right in front of the bandstand.

And, dancing like no one was watching (if people still say that), to every single groove Mr. Johnson, who just happened to also be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was laying down.

At 91, the Fairmont woman is still dancing.

“Yep,” she said, the other day.

“I have a radio in my bedroom and a radio in my kitchen, and they’re always on. Music, all the time.”

Saturday night, she didn’t just get another dance. She got a coronation, too.

Both came courtesy of entertainer Bobby Nicholas, who bestowed a royal title for a rich friendship.

He made Missus Mary “Queen for a Day,” complete with a throne, a red carpet and a tiara, too — in the gathering at White Hall Ship and More, a multipurpose business facility in the Middletown Commons that also serves as a banquet hall and concert venue.

“Missus Mary,” he said, chuckling warmly.

“This is sort of a ‘random acts of kindness’ evening,” said Nicholas, who wants to make such musical events a regular feature in his latest chapter as a performer.

“Mary does for her family and friends. Everybody who knows her, loves her.”

Including Nicholas, who sings The Great American Songbook, Motown and all sonic points in between.

That’s what he did, to backing tracks, Saturday night.

And that’s why he lined up a local car dealership and a local restaurant as sponsors for Missus Mary’s moment.

With the help of White Hall Ship and More, an evening was in the making.

More than 100 people, in fact, had purchased tickets by Friday afternoon.

Getting there would be a haul, for some.



Washington, D.C.

Jackson, Miss.  

“I can’t believe they’re all coming in,” she said.

If you would like to enlist Nicholas for his help in making someone you love Queen for a Day, call him at 304-826-0105. His email is nicholasbobby17@gmail.com.

Music, as said, was how the crooner made his acquaintance with the dancer.

For years, he had a nightly gig at Caesar’s Supper Club, Angelo Deiriggi’s legendary venue in Fairmont’s Bellview neighborhood, which is right down the street from where Mary grew up and lives today.

Mary and her husband, William, would be there, with all the timing of an in-the-pocket blues shuffle.  

The couple met in front a jukebox when they were kids and danced together as husband and wife until his death in 1989.

William was a coal miner and Mary worked at Westinghouse. They brought two daughters into the world.

“I sure do miss him,” she said.

“It’s like Mary is everyone’s grandmother,” Nicholas said.

“Bobby’s my guy,” the Queen for a Day answered.

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