The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

December 26, 2009

Manchin’s mom was a tomboy in her youth

CHARLESTON — She grew up near Farmington, in a little town called Rachel, with three sisters and four brothers. Her father, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, ran a grocery store.

She didn’t yearn to be a nurse or a teacher or a secretary or any of the other options open to women in those days.

There was something Mary Manchin wanted far more than a career.

“I always wished I was a boy,” she said. “I loved sports. When Joe got into sports, I never missed a game.”

As a girl in Rachel, the self-professed tomboy certainly never dreamed she’d end up with a son in the Governor’s Mansion.

Joe was a good kid with a great work ethic, the governor’s 87-year-old mother said. He never caused her a lick of trouble. She knew he’d make something of himself. But governor of West Virginia? Nope. She never counted on that.

Interviewed at the Governor’s Mansion during a recent visit, the “first mom” of West Virginia shared some insights about her early years, motherhood and her life with the Manchin clan.

Her father, Charles Gouzd, emigrated from Czechoslovakia at the age of 32. He found work in a slaughterhouse in Chicago. Then friends called him to join them in the coal mines. He met his wife in Illinois.

After three or four years, they moved to Rachel. He worked a couple of years in the mines, then opened a grocery store where he worked until he died at 89.

She recalls riding in the truck with her father on the three-mile trip to Farmington to buy food for the cattle at the feed market. “There’s not a single grocery store in Farmington now,” she said. “We used to have five groceries.”

People flocked from all over to buy her father’s kielbasa, she said.

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