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Meet your neighbor Cotswold’s Elva Blair

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Charlotte woman made it to 100 by giving back

By Reid Creager
Correspondent

Elva Blair may have gotten so much out of her 100 years because of how much she’s given back.

She’s approaching the milestone birthday April 2, with plans to celebrate a long love affair with family in her Cotswold neighborhood. Her story is one of faith, family, accomplishment and service to others.

Elva’s longevity carries other eye-popping numbers: nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren; a 69-year marriage to her late husband and Glad Tidings ministry cofounder Dr. J. Allen Blair (“We never argued. We talked things out.”); a partnership with the ministry that lasted more than 65 years.; living in Charlotte for more than a half-century – 54 years.

Soft-spoken but alert, she’s quick to attribute her longevity “to the Lord. He knows my comings and goings. He has a purpose for me. He sees all and knows all. He knows the beginning and the end, and everything in between.”

The ministry – still carried out by son-in-law Gary Janes and her daughter, Judy – has been the essence of a life of sharing with others. Early in their marriage, the Blairs committed to giving half of their money and everything else they received to missions. Her husband became a regular at Saturday garage sales.

“It was surprising what we would find,” Elva says. “We furnished our whole house that way, but it didn’t look like it came from garage sales. My husband did enjoy fixing things, but we usually bought things in good condition.”

Sharing came naturally for a girl from a family of six siblings, who even shared the same first initial: Earl, Elmer, Erwin, Esther, Ether and Evelyn. The latter had Elva’s special longevity, living until one month before her 99th birthday.

Besides being the office manager at Glad Tidings, Elva has worked as a volunteer with hospice and Crisis Pregnancy. But as one of her daughters explained, her gift of giving has manifested itself in so many other ways.

“My mother has been an example to me in her selflessness, always having reached out to other people,” says Sherril Harrill, who with her husband, Hu, has lived with her mother since 2005. “She was a faithful companion to my father, a mother who was focused on caring for her family and a friend to many – including those who needed a kind word.

“She never walked through a nursing home without giving out hugs to folks she didn’t even know because she felt they needed one. She took me on many visits to the elderly in their homes to brighten their day.”

She shared her rich life experiences in her 2006 autobiography, “Mother’s Memories: The Experiences and Memories of Elva Blair.”

“I thought the children would enjoy having it,” she says. “We have three daughters and three wonderful ‘sons-in-love.’ ”

Charlotte has been a major player in her life story. She and her husband moved from St. Louis in 1959, and she’s been here ever since – through 10 mayors, 11 presidents, six popes and myriad changes in the city.

“There were no skyscrapers when we moved here,” Elva says. “Belk and Ivey’s were the tallest buildings, and there wasn’t much traffic.”

One thing hasn’t changed, she says: “The people have always been friendly.”

Asked what she’s up to these days, she jokes, “I’m drawing flies.”

Actually, she’s drawing pictures – as well as reading her Bible and other books; working jigsaw puzzles; and playing with her dog, Mo.

Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at rcreags@voyager.net.
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