Just think: Ila Lee Yelton Bartles celebrated Christmas 104 times.
Monday would have been her 105th, but she passed away a week ago. We don't know of anyone older in Columbia County, so she might have been our oldest citizen.
The News-Times is 125 years old this year. We thought that was pretty significant. But the paper was still known as the Columbia Sentinel when Mrs. Bartles was born. The Columbia News name wasn't even created until 1920, when she already was 15.
Longevity is a funny thing. Mrs. Bartles didn't cure cancer or send a rocket to the moon; all she did was live a very, very long time.
But every culture at some point recognizes the value of the elderly, even if they fall short of giving them appropriate honor. We see in them an image of what we hope to be one day: Happy, successful, surrounded by family.
Mrs. Bartles certainly fit that criteria. Her nine children produced 24 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren. That total of offspring is one more than the number of years (69) that she lived in her home in Phinizy, on the road named for her late husband, Tom Bartles.
Sadly, one of the penalties for longevity is that not everyone around you shares it. As a result, Mrs. Bartles outlived her husband and five of her own children - two of them in the past year. There were a lot of births in that 105 years, but a lot of funerals, too.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the current average life expectancy in the United States is 77.9 years. So few of us will get within striking distance of celebrating 105 birthdays - or 104 celebrations of the greatest birthday of all, on Christmas.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Bartles. May your 105th Christmas be the merriest yet.
Christmas is generally thought of as a celebration for the young, but in addition to the news about Mrs. Bartles' passing, December features a pair of 100th birthdays locally.
This past Tuesday, as noted in a story in today's News-Times, Chung Fu Liu threw a party to celebrate his own 100th birthday. Lou Eady, a staff member at Morningside Evans, where Mr. Liu lives, says he's never allowed them to hold a birthday party for him - but this year, he hired a caterer to mark his own milestone, and brought in family members from around the country to join the festivities.
This Saturday, Charles Singletary Jr., of Grovetown, will mark his Dec. 31 100th birthday. He'll have plenty of company, with five children, 18 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren.
The celebration will be at his own home - an apartment behind his son's house in Grovetown.
Congratulations to both these very senior citizens.
A noisy Christmas
My mom didn't live to be 100. In fact, she made it only to 62 before passing away six years ago. I think about her an awful lot on Christmas, a holiday that she really enjoyed.
I will never forget one particular Christmas about 10 years ago, just one of our many boisterous gatherings at the Appling home she shared with my stepfather, John Bennett.
That year, she gave each of her grandchildren battery-powered toy guns that made about 10 different loud, obnoxious sci-fi movie ray-gun noises.
After a few minutes of the kids running around blasting each other with all manner of squeals and buzzes, I asked her, "Why in the world did you give them those noisy things?" She just laughed mischievously and replied, "Because they're all taking them home."
Merry Christmas, Mom - and to everyone who knows how to have a joyful Christmas.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.