For the most part, my grandfather Gaither’s family lived long lives. He and his siblings were born in a time (1897-1918) when the life expectancy of men was 47-55 years, and it was only slightly higher for women.
His father, Oscar, born 1873, had a life expectancy of 44 years, but more than doubled that by living 91 years. I have only one memory of him, as I was a child when he died, and we lived in a different city. I can recall him sitting in a chair in his front yard. That is the only thing I remember, nothing about the circumstances, nothing about him, just have that image in my head. I also have a photo of him just like that. Perhaps that was when the photo was taken.
Oscar and his wife, Pricilla, who lived to be 70, had seven children and all but one surpassed their life expectancy.
- Judson – 88 years
- Marion -29 years (illness from working in a coal mine)
- Taylor- 80 years
- Marshall -94 years
- Erie -101 years
- Mary – 95 years (just 2 days shy of her 96th birthday)
- Bud – 77 years
Erie, better known as Pete, was the centenarian of the bunch and still very active in his 90’s. The following stories happened during that decade.
He was 91 when his sister-in-law passed away. She was buried in a local church cemetery, next to her husband. When most of the family had left, and the graveyard workers began covering her grave, Pete grabbed a shovel and began helping. It was the last act of respect he could show to his brother’s wife.
My cousins and I visited Uncle Pete to ask about family history and arrived at his home about 10:30 in the morning. At least it was morning for us. The house had the aroma of fried fish. Uncle Pete had already been to the river, caught a ‘mess of fish’, brought them home, cleaned them, fried them and had already eaten them for lunch. That man had more energy before noon than I had all day, and he was 50 years older than me!
Uncle Pete would often visit family and friends, catching them up on the happening of the family and community. While visiting my father he said that he was hoping to have a bigger garden the next year. He wasn’t satisfied with the small 1/2 acre garden he had planted that year, and was planning for a full acre sized garden the next year! When Daddy was telling me about their visit, he remarked, “I hope I’m that active if I reach his age.” Then he laughed and said, “I’m not that active, now!”
Uncle Pete loved to take his boat and go fishing, usually alone. The biggest problem with that, was that his family would usually have no idea of where he went or when he left. Eventually, he had to give up his truck keys to keep his family from panicking when he got the urge to travel.
Most of us dream of living a long life. Maybe we should be more interested in making the years we do live more productive, like Uncle Pete.