Reflections on Turning 100: `All I Have Done Is Get Old'

By Levine-Brown, Patti | The Florida Times Union, July 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Reflections on Turning 100: `All I Have Done Is Get Old'


Levine-Brown, Patti, The Florida Times Union


Naomi Abbott turned 100 years old yesterday, and a big birthday

party is planned for today at the Hilltop Restaurant.

Naomi Abbott recalls the first time she ever saw a car.

"I was about 4 and I was standing in the yard at our house in

Alabama," she said. "I saw this thing coming down the road that

looked like a buggy with a top over it. It had big wheels like

the ones you see on a wagon, but I didn't see any horses and I

couldn't understand how or why it was moving. I ran inside the

house and told my mother she had to come and see the runaway

wagon."

The year was 1903 and Abbott, who turned 100 yesterday, can

remember facts, figures and details that most people half her

age can't and her busy schedule would wear out many teenagers.

A busy part of her life these days is attending celebrations

being held in her honor. In May, the Young at Heart Club paid

their tribute, and next week West Park Street Church of God,

which she has attended for more than 60 years, is planning a

reception.

Additionally, today, while many people are celebrating the

birth of this country's independence, more than 100 people will

attend a birthday party given by her family at the Hilltop

Restaurant in Orange Park.

"I told everyone that all these blowouts they have planned are

going to kill me," said the Birmingham, Ala., native. "I don't

know why everyone is making such a fuss. All I have done is get

old and I couldn't help that."

Hilltop owner Jean Patterson said, "This celebration will be

one of the largest functions of this type we've ever had at

Hilltop."

Abbott, an impeccably dressed, statuesque centenarian with

silvery white hair, moves with grace. She is proud of the fact

she can bend over and touch her toes without bending her knees

and doesn't hesitate to demonstrates the feat to a room full of

much younger people who can't duplicate her feat.

She has lived through a lot of historic moments: the flight of

the first airplane, the sinking of the Titanic, the explosion of

the atomic bomb, the birth of television, five wars, the change

of the United States from a regional power to a world power, the

rise and fall of communism and Adolph Hitler, the formation of

the League of Nations and the United Nations and the age of

computers.

What sticks in her mind about the Titanic is that they said it

was unsinkable.

"I guess God had something to say about that," said Abbott, who

recently began living with her daughter, Henrietta Samples.

"Things are happening so fast today, it is getting harder for me

to keep up with it all."

Abbott has lived on Jacksonville's Westside near the Clay

County line for more than 60 years. When she came to the area it

was literally desolate. She and her husband, Claude, who died in

his 50s, bought several acres around the Collins Road area. They

built a home, then a store and later a hotel.

"There was nothing here but us for a time," said Abbott. "If we

wanted to buy groceries, we had to drive into Five Points and my

husband went to Orange Park to get his hair cut, but that is

about all that was there then.

"When they eventually built the highway [U. …

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