Ed Grisamore

Grisamore: Woman celebrates 90th birthday with 1st Waffle House waffle

Audrey Dodd had a special request for her 90th birthday this past Sunday.

She didn’t ask to go skydiving or ride a bull. Those might have been on her bucket list when her hair was wild, instead of silver. (She still wants to go snowboarding one day.)

To celebrate her 32,872nd day on earth, Audrey put in an order for her first-ever Waffle House waffle. She wanted to mark the occasion by sticking her fork into those crunchy squares, softened by butter and syrup.

On Sunday morning, Audrey’s daughter and son-in-law, Vicki and Ray Durden, picked her up at her home on Burton Avenue and drove 8 miles to the Waffle House on Zebulon Road.

About the time folks across Macon were opening their Bibles in Sunday school, Audrey was having her own religious experience in a cozy corner booth at Waffle House.

The waitress brought a waffle almost as big as the plate, and Audrey took a bite and declared it delicious. (I’m not sure if there was a special for nonagenarians tasting their first waffle on their milestone birthday, but there should have been.)

Waffle House has been a Georgia icon since the restaurant chain opened in Avondale Estates in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend in 1955. It’s difficult to imagine how someone could live their entire life in the South having never devoured a waffle -- they don’t serve pancakes -- beneath those 11 black letters and yellow squares. It’s like never having a Krispy Kreme doughnut or a Krystal hamburger. How is that possible?

But it somehow eluded Audrey, who always did most of the cooking for her family. The Dodds never went out to eat much, unless it was to the S&S Cafeteria.

She did make waffles, though. She had a waffle iron. Then Eggos came along, and she admitted it was much easier to pull them out of the freezer and pop them into the toaster.

Audrey has more names than all the many ways Waffle House cooks famously serve their hash browns -- scattered, smothered, covered, chucked, diced, peppered, capped, topped and splashed with sausage gravy.

She was born Audrey Lee Kirkpatrick in Hawkinsville on Aug. 24, 1924. That’s the maiden name on her birth certificate and written in the family Bible.

But along the way, she began collecting names of people she admired and adding them to her own. So she introduces herself as Audrey Lee Sally Mae Jessie Evelyn Belle Gladys Inez Maryann Mozelle Kirkpatrick Dodd.

That’s a mouthful.

She moved to Macon when she was 14 years old to live with relatives. She would catch the bus to her job as a soda jerk at a downtown drug store, until she met Henry Dodd and he offered to pick her up and take her home. They dated for two weeks before driving to Jeffersonville in 1942 and getting married by the ordinary (justice of the peace). Henry served in the Army during World War II and returned home to work at Taylor Iron Works. They had five children and had been married 58 years when he died in 1999.

She suffered a heart attack in 2010 and later fell and broke her leg. Last year, when Audrey admitted she had never had a Waffle House waffle, Vicki suggested to her brother, Rusty, that he take their mother to the Waffle House for her 89th birthday.

It was a Saturday morning. For unexplained reasons, Audrey had a change of heart when she looked at the menu. She ordered eggs, grits, toast and coffee.

She saved her waffle for the big Nine-Oh.

On Sunday, she wore her pink dress. She bought it at Ross several years ago but had never worn it. She told everyone it is the dress she wants to be buried in.

Vicki asked her to put it on for the special breakfast. “Mama,” she said, “I want to see you in that dress while you’re still living.”

Audrey could have ordered a pecan waffle, or one topped with blueberries, strawberries, peanut butter or even chocolate chips.

Instead, she opted for a plain waffle, with a side order of sausage patties. A lifelong coffee drinker, she quit drinking it a few weeks ago. She ordered a glass of milk. (Although she claims she doesn’t get as hungry at her age, the woman can still eat her weight in scuppernongs.)

More than two dozen family members gathered at her house Sunday afternoon where Audrey, still somewhat full from breakfast, sliced the birthday cake and announced she plans to live to be 100.

Looks like there will be plenty of opportunities for another waffle.

Contact Ed Grisamore at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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