Mary Kirk Underwood, 94: Marietta beautician for more than three decades

Her hands could tell her story.

Well-worn but able to make the lightest of cakes, curl the tiniest of curls and pull the most stubborn weed from her yard, Mary Underwood’s hands were no stranger to hard work.

“If you saw her hands, you’d know the hours she put in,” said her only granddaughter, Mary Margaret Lewis of Marietta.

Born in Marietta, Underwood grew up on a farm where her father grew, among other things, cotton. As a young woman, she once picked 100 pounds of cotton before noon, said her daughter, Rosemary Chatfield of Kennesaw.

“That tells you a lot about my mother’s work ethic,” she said.

Underwood, who owned and operated Rosemary Beauty Salon in Marietta for 35 years, was well known for her delicious cakes, and later she added yeast rolls to her offerings.

“I remember coming through the back door, and she always had the mixer going,” her granddaughter said.

“And that was after a full day at the salon,” her daughter added. “For most of her life she worked six days a week.”

Even after Underwood retired, and her daughter took over the shop, she still kept busy with the business’ books and doing church work, her daughter and granddaughter said.

Mary Kathrine Kirk Underwood of Marietta died Monday after a brief period of declining health. She was 94.

A funeral is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Marietta First Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Kennesaw Memorial Park, Marietta. Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home and Crematory, Marietta, is in charge of arrangements.

Underwood started styling hair as a teen, said Mary Jean Whitfield of Marietta. Whitfield, who ended up being a loyal customer, often kept Underwood company in the early days.

“I think we were around 15 at that time,” Whitfield said. “She was very good. She never asked me if I liked this or that. I trusted her judgment [on hairstyles], and I was always fine with what she did.”

When Mary Kirk married Harry William Underwood Sr. in 1943, her career as a hair stylist was well under way. She’d been to cosmetology school in the Dalton area, her daughter said, and was working in a shop when she married. In 1949, Mary Underwood opened her own shop, which she ran until 1984, when her husband’s declining health took precedence. They were married for nearly 49 years when he died in 1991.

Though she’d turned the business over to Chatfield, in many sentimental ways the salon still belonged to Underwood.

“Everyone still thought it was mother’s business,” her daughter said with a laugh. “I changed the location and the name, but we had a lot of the same customers. They would say, ‘Oh Mary, I love your new shop.’”

And the confusion was understandable, Chatfield said, because her mother was still at the shop a few times a week working on the books, and of course, getting her hair done.

Chatfield closed the shop in 2007 and said she couldn’t have had it that long if not for her mother.

“I give her credit for the business being there as long as it was,” she said. “We were still together up there a lot. It was a good thing, and we enjoyed it.”

In addition to her daughter, Chatfield, and granddaughter, Lewis, Underwood is survived by her son, Bill Underwood of Kennesaw; four grandsons; and 10 great-grandchildren.

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