Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Rosa Jamison Bryant Beckner of Rocky Mount is celebrating her 110th birthday today.
Monday, November 11, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
When asked the secret to long life, Rosa Jamison Bryant Beckner was slow to answer.
"If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore," she said. "But I am giving the Lord all the credit."
Beckner said November 11 has always been a special day for her. Not only is it her birthday, it is also Veterans' Day.
"Even the mail stops running," she said. "Having the mail stop running on my birthday makes me feel special."
Born 110 years ago to Chris and Martha Jamison in Roanoke County, Beckner's mind is still sharp, even though her years of life have taken a toll on her hearing and eyesight.
Her mother died when Beckner was only 3 years old, so she was raised by her father and stepmother, Ida.
"I don't remember my mother at all," said Beckner. "But my father was a farmer his whole life."
Beckner said her father had four children with Beckner's mother and four with Beckner's stepmother.
"I was the third child in the first group," Beckner said. "I had one brother and two sisters in my group. In the second group were two boys and two girls."
Beckner's father farmed his entire life, with help from his boys, Beckner said.
Beckner said she remembers being "about 15 when World War I closed out."
Though there have been many changes over the last 110 years, Beckner said the telephone stands out the most in her mind. She recalls the first telephone her father got when she was a teenager.
"You could hear every call that came in," said Beckner. "Now, you carry phones in your pocket."
Horses were the only form of transportation in Beckner's early years.
"I remember one time that me and my youngest sister, Bessie, had taken milk and butter on a route," said Beckner. "There was a fountain and it was near a railroad station and a bridge. All of a sudden, I could no longer control the horse. We were crossing the bridge and the horse hit the wagon and fell. It drew a crowd. I'm not sure if the horse was thirsty or got spooked. She wasn't hurt, though, and took us on home."
Beckner said her entire family worked hard to keep the household going.
"I grew up on a farm, doing farm work," said Beckner. "We had to milk the cows, feed the chickens, carry in the wood, work in the garden, pick beans and work up the ground to plant corn."
It wasn't all work and no play, though, said Beckner.
"We played ball games during recess in school," she said. "Ball games were about the only games we had."
Beckner was educated in public schools through the seventh grade.
She said she earned $3 a week "helping mothers with their children" until she was old enough to get married.
"It wasn't very much money, but it bought materials for our clothing," said Beckner. "We made all our own clothes by hand back then."
Beckner married James Bryant when she was 25, and the couple had two sons, James Henry and Norris Clay. Both sons are now deceased.
The marriage was short-lived, however, when James passed away.
Then Beckner married Carl Beckner, who had six children of his own, and the couple moved to North Carolina.
"So, I raised or helped raise eight children," said Beckner.
While in North Carolina, Beckner worked in the cafeteria at Clemmons Elementary School for about 15 years.
When her second husband passed away, Beckner stayed in North Carolina for about five years before moving back to Roanoke in 1978.
"All my family was in Virginia, so I moved back there and stayed with Jimmy (her son) and Virginia (his wife)," said Beckner.
Beckner continued living with Virginia, even after Jimmy passed away.
In 2008, Virginia and Beckner both moved to Bonbrook Mill Road in Rocky Mount to live with Virginia's new husband, Kenneth Rutrough.
"She has been with me for 35 years," said Virginia Rutrough. "She might just outlive me."
Beckner said she has a pretty good appetite and eats anything she wants as long as she likes it.
"I am not on any special diet, but I do try to eat healthy," she said. "I like fruits and vegetables. I also like cottage cheese and apple butter."
"She is not on any meds whatsoever," said Rutrough. "I do give her a Mucinex when needed and a vitamin every day."
Beckner said she used to love quilting and cooking.
"I had planned to keep on cooking as long as my hands would let me, but my eyes are going before my hands," she said.
She still likes to get outside when the weather is nice.
"I don't go out when it's raining or very cold," said Beckner. "I've had both hips broken in the past from falls, so I have to be very careful when moving around."
Beckner said she has always stayed away from alcohol and tobacco and was raised in the church.
"I was baptized in the old German Baptist Brethren Church," said Beckner, who is a member of the Peters Creek Old German Baptist Brethren Church.
Beckner has six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
"I also have numerous step-grandchildren, step-great-grandchildren and step-great-great- grandchildren," she said. "I feel blessed. My children were healthy and I never had to run to the doctors much. I've had a really good life."
Living beyond a century is not all that common, so genetics could be a factor.
"My oldest sister died when she was 108, and my youngest sister died at age 97," Beckner said.