Sunday, October 10, 2010


Family celebrates 10-10-10

By: Ed Grisamore
@Macon Telegraph

 DAVISBORO — Lula Gilbert cannot push her memory all the way back on a journey that began 110 years ago.

She can no longer recall what it was like to be alive before Abraham Lincoln was on the head of a penny and the Wright brothers had wings.

Special to The Telegraph Lula Gilbert, 110, sits with a can of snuff in this undated photo. Some of the memories are still intact, though. They return to a time when every road was dirt because no one owned a car. Or had a telephone.

She can tell stories about picking cotton and plowing behind a mule, when the field hands could have irrigated the row crops with the sweat of a summer day.

There are other centenarians who can find the recesses of their childhoods with greater clarity. Their minds don’t get as weary or have to work as hard. But they don’t have to turn as many pages of the family Bible to find their births recorded.

Sunday is being revered as 10-10-10.

For Lula Poole Bridges Gilbert, who was born on Oct. 10, 1900, in Washington County, it is 10-10 ... 110.

One hundred and 10 years is 40,177 sunrises in Deepstep and 27 leap years across the ditches to Riddleville. It is a zillion footsteps over wooden bridges along the road to Sandersville, kicking up red dirt and kaolin dust as she carried babies in her arms while trying to balance a sack of groceries on her head.

Sunday at the New Fleming Baptist Church, six generations of family and friends will gather for dinner on the grounds to honor their matriarch. They will celebrate the longevity of a woman who still carries three cans of snuff in her pocketbook and enjoys watching Westerns every afternoon on a big-screen TV in her grandson’s single-wide trailer.

There will be plenty of birthday cake, but no one will dare strike a match to 110 candles for fear of burning down the church.

Miss Lula would bake one herself, if she were able. Some folks still call her “Cook.” The nickname has stuck like the batter of her famous sweetbread. She not only fed her own family but wore aprons in dozens of other homes, where she worked as a housekeeper. For years, she was hired to cook meals for the men between shifts at a local sawmill.

She is a great-great-great-grandmother, and the branches of her family tree — scribbled in the crowded margins of spiral notebooks — are like a giant oak reaching in every direction. Two of her grandchildren, Catherine Morgan and Willie Bridges, helped fill in the details and reconstruct much of her life story.

In July, Miss Lula moved to Davisboro to live with Willie and his wife, Emma. She had been in Bristol, Pa., with her only surviving daughter, Nora Williams. Before that, she lived with granddaughter, Catherine, in Macon.

She grew up one of 10 children, and her parents, Ed and Gustann Poole, were sharecroppers. She was married at age 13 to a man named General Bridges. He passed the house one day and noticed her baby sitting a neighbor’s children. Before he formally introduced himself, he asked her father for her hand in marriage.

She gave birth to the first of her five children at age 14 and was grateful for whatever the Lord and the land provided. They pulled corn and picked velvet beans to feed the hogs. The beans were prickly, like okra, and they would wrap their sleeves to protect their skin.

When she separated from her first husband, she married Gordon Gilbert, a widower who had no children of his own but was raising three of his nephews.

She taught her children and grandchildren how to quilt, can vegetables and make potash soap. She never had a driver’s license. About the only thing she has ever collected was store-bought dolls.

Sunday, she will officially move from the ranks of centenarian (100 and older) to supercentenarian (110 and older.) According to the Gerontology Research Group, which tries to verify the age of those who qualify as supercentenarians, she will be the fourth-oldest Georgia resident.

Bess Cooper of Walton County is 114 and the second-oldest living American behind Eunice Sanborn of Texas, who is 37 days older. The second-oldest Georgian, Leila Denmark of Athens, is 112 and a graduate of Tift College in Forsyth. She achieved notoriety as the oldest practicing pediatrician in the world when she retired in 2001 at age 103. Annie Leverett of Americus turned 112 in June.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Building a Better World
BY: Scott B. Thompson, Sr.

There's a new governor in this state. You may know him as the pool guy or the father of some pretty good athletes. Now and for the next year, you will know him as the Governor of the Georgia District of Civitan International. He is as old as life and as young as the rainbow, as endless as time. His hands reach out in service to others. His ears hear the cry of children. His heart beats for every friend and bleeds for every injury to humanity. He is a Civitan. And, his name is Kenny Martin.

Kenny was born to be a Civitan. Actually, he was born before the Dublin Club was founded in 1955. His father, Hubert Martin, was the club's fifth president and a Lt. Governor of the South Georgia District. Kenny grew up in East Dublin and went to school in Dublin before returning to the Rams of East Laurens High School. It was on the East side where Kenny got his first taste of leadership. He served as his senior class president and helped to facilitate the integration of East Laurens and B.D. Perry High School. Just three years out of high school, Martin made his first venture into politics, winning a seat on the East Dublin City Council, a feat which made him the youngest city council member in the history of the county. That record didn't last long. Clifton Wilkinson set the record two years later when he was elected to the Dublin council at the age of 20.

Kenny devoted most of his time to build a life and home for his family, but found time to serve others as a Mason and a Shriner. When his law enforcement career ended, Kenny began to look for other ways of serving. He didn't look far, remembering all the times that his father and Elbert Mullis, known to many as the "grandfather of all Civitans in the South Georgia District," would meet together at his house working on Civitan matters. Kenny also remembered going with his father and other Civitans out to the old Brewton School to salvage some unused chalk boards which the county donated to the School of Hope in Dublin behind Saxon Street School. The school, whose first teacher was Mrs. Shirley Miller, was sponsored by the Civitans to help educate disabled children.

"Most people are asked to join the Civitan club. It was different with me. I wanted to get in," Martin fondly recalled. Fellow deputy Vernon DeLoach and Kenny's Civitan role model Elbert Mullis helped him to join the club in 1988.

To Martin, being a Civitan means a chance to give back to his community. "We have a strong club with a good mix of ages with members from their twenties to their eighties," Martin observed. In fact, the Dublin club, in a constant seesaw contest with Warner Robins club, is now the largest in Georgia. Kenny feels a sense of fulfillment when he and club members build a wheel chair ramp for the disabled, host an Easter egg hunt for special needs children, or host a fair, the club's biggest fund raiser, all in the name of helping children, who cannot help themselves.

Speaking of the Fall Fair, which will be held on October 19-23, Kenny Martin has headed the fair committee for the last sixteen years, going back to the old days when it was held in the rear of the Ag Center. It was a role groomed for him by Mullis. "Robert Drew helps get the building and grounds set up every year and I handle the business end of it," said Martin, who can always rely on fifty-plus year member James Hudson to handle the ticket booths, Treasurer John Simpson to count the proceeds, Wick Cochran to stock the concession stand with donated products, and every other member to step up and help where needed.

Martin served his first year as President of the Dublin club in 1997, but two years ago when a president-elect took another job and the club needed a replacement with experience, Kenny Martin couldn't say no. Old cries for him to run for District Governor by long time leaders of the old South Georgia District were heaped on him. With all of his children out of school, Martin succumbed to the pleas and threw his hat in the ring. "At the time, I didn't know I would have any opposition, there is usually not any," Martin recalled. But, at the 2009 annual convention, Kenny Martin was elected Governor of the Georgia District. He is the first Dublin member to attain that honor, although three former members have served as Governor of the South Georgia District.

Kenny took office on October 1st. In the six weeks leading up to his taking office, Martin has been busy, very busy. He attended and helped manage the district convention, only two weeks before traveling to the International Convention in Cancun, Mexico. Since returning home, Kenny has spent the last three weeks traveling all over the state attending and speaking at officer installation banquets.

This year, 2010-2011, the International Civitan Club's motto is "Pay it Forward." "Every civic club's mission is to pay it forward," Martin contended. It is Martin's goal and the club's goal to encourage every single member, there's 1150 of these public servants in Georgia, to "pay it forward" on an individual basis to help even more people in our community and around the world, including children in the International Civitan Research Hospital Center in Birmingham.

One of the Dublin club's goals for the upcoming year is the revitalization of the Special Olympics programs in Laurens County. Citing that the Olympics were once the club's most important event, Martin would like the games and community support rejuvenated.

"There are plenty of opportunities to help people out. There are a lot of people hurting with the economy and the shape it is in. You always think you have it bad until you look around and find somebody else who has it worse than you do," Martin remarked. "You don't have to look far to find somebody in need," he concluded.

So, if you would like to help disabled children and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, find a Civitan and ask for a membership application. Then, you too can help build a better world.