Eating three meals a day and a bowl of vanilla ice cream before she goes to bed is what Warner Robins centenarian Thelma Roberts attributes to a good, long life, according to Betty Brandford, activities director at the Warner Robins Rehabilitation Center, where Roberts is a resident.
On Nov. 1, Roberts, along with several family members and residents, celebrated her 107th birthday with a cake, punch and her favorite: vanilla ice cream. At her side were her sisters Lorene Williams, 100, and Ruemilla Moss, 92.
Roberts, who has been a resident at the center for nearly a year, loves gospel music and socializing, according to Brandford.
“She loves talking … reminiscing,” she said. “She is very alert. She loves to talk about canning vegetables…and how they never ate at a restaurant…how they went to town on a Friday night when they got sugar and a block of ice.”
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At the center, Brandford said Roberts attends church services, loves singing gospel music, especially songs like “Amazing Grace” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and she loves to go outside on nice days. Earlier this year, she went to Lane Southern Orchards and got some fresh peaches. Although she now uses a wheelchair, Roberts goes from room to room talking to people.
“She can roll herself up to another resident…and they have themselves a good old conversation,” she said
Roberts’ daughter, Paulette Roberts McCormick, 73, of Warner Robins, said her mother had been living with her since her father, Estee Roberts passed away in 2006 at the age of 96. He was a farmer and a part-time school bus driver.
“I let her stay by herself one year…last November, she got to where she couldn’t walk,” McCormick said. She was wearing high heel shoes on a Sunday, and the next day couldn’t walk.”
McCormick said her mother was born in Mitchell, Ga., and was the oldest of seven children. The family farmed on a plantation they owned around Mitchell, Ga.
“She always was the boss in her family…she always wanted to be in charge,” she said. “Growing up, she had to take care of the smaller ones.”
McCormick said her mom’s father was a preacher who rode in buggies and on bicycles to Warrenton, Ga., where he caught a train and was educated in Augusta at what is now Paine College. Her mother finished high school in Louisville, Ga., and although she went to several colleges, she never finished. Despite not having a college education, Roberts taught at church schools, went to beauty school, fixed hair, did some nursing along the way and worked at the “old soldier’s home” in Atlanta, MCormick said. She said Roberts and her sisters also traveled the United States on tours out of Atlanta during the summers.
“She is a go-getter; she loved to do stuff,” said McCormick, adding that her mother still enjoys it, but is not physically able to do it.
Roberts has two children, McCormick and a son, Maurice Roberts, 76, of Warrenton, Ga. She has two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Longevity runs in the family, according to McCormick. In addition to Roberts’ sisters, a cousin in the Atlanta area is 100, she said.
“Being on the farm…we ate well,” she said. “We had good water. Going to school, we had spring water. I think that is the key – good fresh air, a lot of working and walking, good food and good water.”