Born in 1910, my wife Ali’s great-grandmother Isabelle Lovvorn of Bowdon died in the same home in which she was born long before the invention of television, microwave ovens and space flight.
Her secret to a long life did not involve eating raw fish or taking some type of miracle pill or salve. She attributed it to three home-cooked meals per day.
I can’t even imagine life in 1910. For my generation, just having four channels on our television set was our biggest struggle in childhood.
Isabelle arrived in this world the same year Mark Twain went out. She was only 2 years old when Woodrow Wilson was elected president and the sinking of the Titanic made headlines throughout the world. Even the zipper wasn’t used in clothing when she was born. It came along a few years later.
My first 10 years were filled with the invention of the push button telephone, CB radio and disco dancing. Isabelle’s first decade was surrounded by young men leaving for World War I and the invention of the refrigerator, telephone and traffic lights.
So, is living to 100 the new 80? Not yet, but it probably will be. Life expectancy at birth in 1850 was just 39 years old. In 1910, the life expectancy at birth was just about 50 years.
The recent census suggests that two-thirds of all people who have lived to age 65 in the history of the world are alive today.
I didn’t realize how many people are living a century until I reached out to Willard Scott’s office. When Isabelle turned 100, I called the public relations department at NBC’s Today Show in New York. I couldn’t wait to see Willard Scott announce her birthday, but I quickly found out she had a lot of competition.
“When Willard started recognizing centurions years ago, he was lucky to get four or five people,” the NBC representative told me. “Today we receive an average of 240 requests per week.”
So, my wife and I submitted a letter to compete against the others. Unfortunately, her name was never announced by Willard. She did, however, receive a birthday card signed by him, which she loved.
“Joe, I want you to know that I received a letter from Willard Scott,” she said via telephone as she thanked Ali and me for sending her information to the Today Show.
“That’s great,” I replied. “I feel honored you called me. I must admit that I’ve never talked to anyone 100 years old on the telephone before.”
She also received a letter from the president of the United States, but she seemed more excited about the one from Willard Scott. She did, however, finally make national news when Nancy Grace wished her a “Happy Birthday” last year on her favorite CNN Show. I just hate we never reached out to Billy Graham.
It’s always hard to say goodbye to anyone, but I’m thankful as the holidays approach that Isabelle Lovvorn’s recipes will continue to be passed along. As my wife cooks her great-grandmother’s dressing, caramel cake and so much more, there’s a connection with those who’ve walked this earth long before us.
Whether it’s taking communion at church, eating dinner on the ground after a funeral or gathering for a holiday meal, there’s just something about food that reaches across generations. Those passed-down recipes don’t just help fill our stomachs. They fill our souls.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.