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Reflections on 96 years in Baker County

Mertie Mae Loadholtz celebrated her 96th birthday on August 6.

Mertie Mae LoadholtzI visited with her a few days later and she told me she had recently seen someone she had not seen for a very long time.

“You know what they told me?” she asked. “They said I hadn’t changed in 40 years!”

She got a kick out of that.

Her birthday party was a small family gathering, unlike the fancy affair that marked her 90th birthday for which she wore an elegant pink gown with embroidered flowers and dragonflies.

She urged me to have some of her birthday cake which still displayed two candles, one shaped like the number nine, the other, the number six.

“My son made me a deal,” she said. “He told me if I make it to 97 then he’s throwing a really big party for me.”

She’s lived in the same house since 1955. It was built in Olustee out of lumber salvaged from a Methodist Church and moved to Glen St. Mary by Gilbert’s House Moving Service.

It’s a sweet house, filled with photos of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren.

“There are so many now I’ve lost count,” she said looking at the photos.

Mertie Mae was born in Baker County in the early part of the Twentieth Century. She remembers walking to the school located beside the fire observation tower out in Taylor.

 

“The school had a name, but we always said we went to school at the tower,” she said.

The year was 1926. All the children in the area walked the half mile to and from school.

“We walked everywhere, even to church which was about a mile away. It wasn’t anything to walk a mile somewhere back then,” she said.

Once, the doctor came to her house to treat a sick family member and when he drove up the noisy engine nearly scared the 12 year old girl to pieces. She’d never seen a car before.

The Great Depression settled over the country.

Mertie grew up and married at age 20. Her first child was born at home. Later as more children came she used the hospital.

“We needed to buy gas for the car on the way to the hospital and you paid for it with stamps,” she said.

At age 92, she was still driving her beloved 1985 Mercury. It’s parked in the garage behind her house now but she won’t give it up.

“I worked hard for that car and I’m keeping it,” she said.

For 20 years she was employed at Fraser Hospital where she started out cleaning shelves and ended up as head cook.

I asked permission to take her photo. She joked about breaking the camera.

I told her she looked wonderful, and I meant it. I asked if there was anything she had not done that she still wanted to do.

She thought about it, then declared with conviction, “I wish I could still clean my own house!”

It turns out she often mopped her kitchen floor before finally going to bed on late nights when she got off work from the hospital.

At age 90, this determined, enterprising lady  was still working — gardening, canning, baking pies, sewing — whatever needed doing.

“I guess I’ve done my part all these years,” she said.

 

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