AVILLA — In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States, the Wright Brothers were granted a patent on their “Flying-Machine” and the first airplane flight occurred in Europe.
Speeding was such an issue that by 1906 20 states had speed limits of 20 miles per hour.
The average worker made $12.98 for a 59-hour work week and the first radio broadcast of the human voice was transmitted from Brant Rock, Mass.
Life expectancy was 46.3 years for males and 47.3 years for females.
And a little girl was named Ollie, born to John and Elizabeth (Wirema) Neeley in Garrett, Ky. Ollie lived well beyond her life expectancy, though, celebrating her 105th birthday Monday.
Ollie Roberts has also outlived four husbands and both of her children are retired. A son and a daughter were born to Ollie and her second husband, Edward Hensley in the home they made in Ohio. She later moved to Columbia City, where she lived for 70 years.
Mrs. Roberts was raised by her grandparents, who would have been old enough to have been alive at the time of the Civil War.
She remembers her grandmother with fondness because she would “tell you how to do things,” including laundry in a wringer washer.
“If I left any circles on the sleeves or collar, she’d take it off the line and I’d have to do it again,” Roberts said.
She told how her grandmother would put up food from the garden by heating water in a big kettle over an open fire in the yard and heating the jars to preserve beans, pickles, tomatoes, etc. from the bounty. They had no telephone and no electricity, heating with coal and wood and using coal oil lights Roberts feels she has lived so long because of her faith.
“Honey, if I hadn’t had God in my life, I wouldn’ta been here, uh-uh!” she said. She continues to minister to others, talking to the nurses in the Provena Sacred Heart Nursing Home in Avilla where she has lived since a recent fall.
“I tell these girls to go to church and then go to school, ... to make something of yourself,” Roberts says.
She was a nurse years ago, but never gave medicines because she didn’t have the proper schooling. She worked in Miller’s Merry Manor in Columbia City and the Medaryville Hospital.
“I’ve tried to be a good person,” Roberts said, “be good to everybody and teach them the right things.”
She spends her days now crocheting, quilting and doing mending for others.
“I’ve gotta be doing something,” she said, but because of a bad leg, “I just set and work.”
She doesn’t fear dying, “I know it’s a-comin’” but tells people to “talk to God. Whatever church He tells you to go to, you go to that one.”
Roberts earliest memory is of when she was three years old at her grandfather’s house.
“Whiskey came in quart bottles. I had an empty bottle and I fell down the steps, broke the bottle and cut my face,” she said. The doctor was called and he came and stitched her up.
Another memory Roberts tells is of her 100th birthday. When she was waiting for her granddaughter to come take her out for dinner, some words came to her, which she believes were from the Lord:
“Last night while I was sleeping
The Saviour came to me and said,
‘Wake up, My Child, I am here;
come and go with me to the Promised Land.
“And I see all the people that are
standing around when so much is to be done.
But when Gabriel blows the trumpet, they all will start to stand.”
Roberts says she will never forget these words, as long as she has her mind. A friend printed the words and added a picture of an angel for her to keep.
A celebration was given for her Monday at the nursing home, complete with live music from Jay and Patrice — playing the accordian and singing — a cake “and the whole bit,” according to Kim Ley, community director. Ley says Roberts is “amazing for 105.”
One of Roberts’ friends, Lucy Miner, called the centenarian, “A good Christian Lady.”
Roberts shows no signs of slowing down, finishing one quilt block a day, pieced and appliqued by hand, for another friend. She also is working on an afghan for her niece.
She said, “I’m doing the best I can and trying to live for God.”
Post & Mail photo/Becky Hand
Ollie Roberts, formerly of Columbia City, celebrated her 105th birthday Monday. She is shown, above with a picture made for her by a friend and an afghan on her lap she is crocheting for her niece.