By Delia Corrigan
West Columbia resident Ottie Roberson celebrated her 107th birthday on March 18th. Her smile and interest in the people around her — caregivers, family, and friends — reveal a strong, compassionate and positive woman who has seen much of life.
Ottie recently enjoyed a birthday visit from Dr. Mark Smith and Debbie Smith, President and First Lady of Columbia International University, who wanted to personally honor the college’s oldest living alumni. Along with others from the CIU Alumni Office, they harmonized on “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Amazing Grace,” to the delight of Roberson. “Her heart of thanksgiving for me showing up was unbelievable. The joy in the visit was ours, not hers,” says Dr. Smith. Recently, CIU established a scholarship in her name to help students in need of financial aid.
In 2002, when Mrs. Roberson was a mere 91 years old, she, with the help of family members, collected data and family photos and wrote down her memories in a booklet entitled, “A Loving Glimpse of the Past.” The fascinating portrait of her earliest memories, up to age sixteen, is a record of how we South Carolinians are ever changing, yet ever the same.
Included in the memoir is a contemplation entitled “Realization”, which she composed at 83 years of age. She writes, “I’m standing at the crossroads of my life … I long to go back and change the past, but it’s too late. I realize now that life’s too short … No one has the answer; only God knows how and why. I pray that he will guide me through the times I cannot foresee, and then let me rest and be at peace in his promised eternity.”
Ottie is a descendant of hardworking German immigrants who landed in Boston prior to the American Revolution. They soon moved to Pennsylvania, and then migrated to a German speaking community in York County. They were stonemasons, and the home they built in what is now Kings Mountain State Park is nicknamed “The Rock House.” It is occasionally open to the public.
Ottie’s parents lost their first two babies, one a stillborn and the other at four-years old. Ottie describes how her father got on a mule at 2 a.m. to get Dr. Allhands to come. The doctor had been out all night delivering a baby and needed to sleep, promising to get there by 9 am. Ottie writes, “The Doctor came but was too late.”
Within a year, Ealon was born, and on March 18, 1911, Ottie was born. Five healthy siblings soon joined the family.
Ottie Roberson has lived and thrived through the historic events of the last century. Her family farmed crops ranging from cotton to cane, and many staples in between. Ottie remembers crossing a field without realizing that the bull calf was out, and she writes, “First thing I knew he came at me, picked me up with his head and literally threw me over the gate … I had a few bruises, but my feelings were hurt worse because my brother was bent over laughing at me.”
The mode of transportation changed from wagon to buggy to a model T that her father drove into a ditch because so many neighbors crowded the road to get their first sighting of a car. Ottie lived through two world wars, an influenza epidemic, and welcomed her handsome husband home from World War II. “We were never rich in material things but very rich in what counted most; honest, sincere, work, and respect and love for the Lord and His church,” writes Ottie.
From all of us at CMM, happy 107 years young to Ottie! What an honor to have you as part of our community.