Mrs. Eloise Agerton will celebrate her 100th birthday August 18, 2019, but she doesn’t have the wrinkles to prove it. When I asked the secret to her lovely complexion, she laughed and said it may be the Avon products she sold years ago. Skin care is probably a factor, but I believe part of the reason she’s aged so beautifully is her good attitude. Her cheerful demeanor goes back a long way.
Miss Eloise’s mobility is limited, and her hearing presents some challenges, but her attitude is outstanding. My mother, brother, and I recently visited with her at Northside Villa, an assisted living facility near Rochelle. “This is a nice place,” she said. “I’m real pleased to be here.” Mama enthusiastically responded, “It’s a wonderful place, Eloise! I would enjoy it here too.” Miss Eloise promptly extended a jovial invitation, “Well Margaret, why don’t you just come on down?” She has a quick wit that easily leads toward laughter.
My mother is a long-time friend of Miss Eloise. They knew each other when their children were growing up in Harmony Baptist Church. Mama mentioned what excellent teachers Miss Eloise and her first husband, Lewis Fullington, were in Discipleship Training on Sunday nights. Then the two of them reminisced about friends and pastors and treasured moments from long ago.
Life didn’t start out easy for Miss Eloise. Her father, Jerry Hudson, worked hard farming to support his wife and three children. Eloise was the first-born, followed by a brother, Harris, and a sister, Krissie. Her sister couldn’t say “Eloise” so dubbed her “Wee,” the name she’s most often called today. When Miss Eloise was eight years old her mother died, shortly after giving birth to another son.
Atha Scroggins, a registered nurse, offered to raise the baby boy. He didn’t live very long, but Miss Eloise still speaks with gratitude for the kindness shown by Ms. Scroggins, other neighbors, and relatives. Miss Eloise took over the household chores while her father lovingly did all that he could. She remembers him rocking a flu sickened child through the night, then leaving early in the morning to work in the fields.
She cooked and kept house at an early age but has no complaints about the tiring work. The chickens she fried on top of their wood burning stove were the ones she caught in their yard. When a hen stopped laying, it was a sure thing that dumplings would soon be simmering in a big pot.
“We were poor folks,” she shared with no hint of regret. “I only had two or three dresses. I’d wash one out and hang it on the line to dry overnight so I could wear it the next day. I knew I couldn’t go to college, but I was determined to finish high school.”
She graduated from Union High, a country school within walking distance of her home. Miss Eloise described the small desks where they studied and ate lunch, and she fondly mentioned a special teacher named Gladys Ruth Robertson. “Everybody loved her,” she said. Then she gave us a glimpse as to why. Miss Eloise enjoyed playing basketball, but her daddy wouldn’t let her wear shorts in front of boys. She sneaked around to play ball until a caring teacher visited Mr. Hudson and convinced him it was okay. It was a small gesture of kindness that made a lasting impression.
Miss Eloise’s family includes two daughters, Brenda Thigpen and Faye Gibbs, a son, Emory Fullington, eight grandchildren, 17 great grands, and one great-great grandchild. Their photographs fill part of a wall, and the nightstand by her bed has a picture of five generations along with her Bible. It’s easy to see what she values.
After we had visited an hour or so, she noticed my brother had closed his eyes. “We’ve put Jimmy to sleep!” she said with an infectious laugh. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Eloise Hudson Fullington Agerton is living proof of Solomon’s wisdom.
If you’d like to send her a birthday card, her address is P O Box 1120, Northside Villa, Rochelle, GA 31079. If you drop by for a visit and she’s taking a nap, it’s fine to wake her up. With a mischievous smile she said, “I sleep sometimes because there’s not all that much I have to do. I even have people to think for me!” Don’t be surprised if you leave there feeling better than when you arrived. I’m almost certain I lost a few wrinkles amidst the laughter. There’s a lot to be said for a good attitude.