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From World War 2 to Barbecue (And everything in-between!), This Shero did it all

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"She was doing the right thing and she was going to make it no matter what the men said, or the obstacles that were thrown in front of her. She said she always knew she would make it in the end," Van Skyes remembers his mother Maxine Sykes as he reminisces on her life, and her legacy.

Van, now 62, tells a captivating story of a Shero with passion, determination, and a lot of perseverance in a time that was anything but easy.

Maxine Helen Deerman was born on April 10, 1921. From a young age, Maxine was a worker.

Her love of entrepreneurship began at age nine during the Great Depression as she began selling biscuits on the street. “I think it sparked something in her. Somewhere in there, there was a little seed planted," Van says.

She later started working at a grocery store, where she met Bob, the bread man that later became her husband.

Soon after Maxine and Bob were married, he was sent off to fight in the war. For the first 3 years of their marriage, they hardly saw each other.

Maxine became apart of the Civilian Workforce, which was largely women with a few men. She later became a part of making aircrafts, in which she was especially talented.

However, after the men came back in 1945 after the war was over, the women lost all of their jobs. “But there were women who didn’t want to stay home and wash the clothes," Van states.

In 1967, Maxine and Bob finally decided to go into business- together. They decided to open a cafe, and traded equity from their car for a one year lease in the building. "That was the generation's source of pride," Van says. "My momma loved cars."

"Mama always said she succeeded in a man's world," Van recalls. And what a true statement that is.

Maxine Skyes was a business woman, a family woman, and a woman of Faith. Perhaps we can all learn something from her, like Van did. "Everything that I do goes back to what she taught me all those years," Van stated.

Because of this one woman's courageous actions and perseverance, she achieved more than anyone thought possible, and influenced everyone that knew her. To this day, her story inspires young women all over the world, some that never even had the opportunity to meet her- like myself.

Hearing Van's story of his mother truly moved me, so I hope her story inspires you to chase your dreams, even when they seem impossible. Maxine sure did.

4 Comments

  1. Van Sykes says:

    Mallory,
    No one has ever told my Mom’s story better. You hit all the high points. What she really learned and wanted to pass on was faith and trust in God goes hand in hand with perseverance. It is hard to have one and not the other. Well done and thank you so much for listening and taking to write it so eloquently.
    Van

    • Colinne Howard says:

      Your mother was a very special lady. I was her hairdresser so many years and I thought the world of her. She took amazing care of your dad and she did a wonderful job raising you. God bless you Van. I have lived in Fairhope , Al for 29 years now and I can tell you there is not a barbecue place here or Mobile that even begins to compete with Bob Sykes. You mom & dad knew what they were doing.

  2. James H Deerman says:

    Van that is an awesome tribute to your mom
    You have a lot of your mom in you and I am sure she is looking over your shoulder and watching over you from heaven every day

  3. Dodie says:

    Wow Van what a love story not only between uncle Bob and aunt Maxine but a love story of hard work and never backing down .

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