It takes a lot more than today's shaky economy and a jittery stock market to rattle a lady like Flora Holt. She's lived through even tougher times.
“People came to the door begging for food,” said Holt, reminiscing about the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it. “I didn't have much, either, but I gave them what I did (have).”
Holt, who turned 103 on Oct. 11, enjoys sharing memories of some of the momentous events she's lived through, like voting for the first time in 1928 for Herbert Hoover, or taking a trip to Washington to actually meet the 31st president of the United States.
“He was big,” she recalls.
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Friends and several family members joined Holt in celebrating her 103rd birthday during a surprise party at Elmcroft of Little Avenue, an assisted-living home in south Charlotte.
“She's classy” said her granddaughter, Liza Hannah. “She dresses up every day. Puts her pearls on and skirt. She's never worn pants a day in her life.”
WCNC-TV weather anchor Larry Sprinkle, a favorite of Holt's, was the surprise guest.
“I think anyone who lives to be 100 years old needs to be honored,” said Sprinkle, who also helped Holt celebrate her 100th birthday.
“She's phenomenal,” added Sprinkle. “To me, it's an honor to be a part of this event.”
Holt was born in Pittsboro and grew up in Irwin. She married, raised two daughters and taught second grade. Her husband died when she was 32, and she never remarried, but she still wears a wedding ring.
For fun, she loves talking with friends and playing bingo.
Holt's surprise party was organized by Karen Colvin, director of community outreach at Gethsemane Cemetery and Memorial Gardens on West Sugar Creek Road.
Besides hosting parties for people like Holt, Gethsemane also puts on an elaborate graveside reception during burial ceremonies when family and friends bid a final goodbye to a loved one.
Each reception includes coffee, cocoa, lemonade, iced tea, bottled water, as well as the departed person's favorite food – which has included shrimp, Buffalo wings, banana pudding, peach cobbler, or spaghetti. Music once enjoyed by the deceased is also played, whether it's classical music, gospel singer Shirley Caesar or country star Willie Nelson.
“My hope is that the cemetery can be more of a ministry than a business,” said Dr. John Gouch, a dentist who purchased Gethsemane two years ago from his church, Northside Baptist, located next to it. He's spent about $1 million remodeling cemetery offices and improving its landscape, he said.
Gouch has a sentimental connection to the cemetery. His grandmother was the first person buried there.