Martha Boyd reflects on her life as she prepares to celebrate her 100th birthday Wednesday.
When Martha Boyd couldn't provide proof of her age when she applied recently for a passport for a July trip to the Bahamas, she was asked if an older sibling could vouch for her.
Um, that would be no.
She turns 100 Wednesday, and although some of her siblings lived well past the century mark, she is the oldest surviving family member now.
A flirty, sassy lady, Mrs. Boyd was scared of cows when she was growing up on a Georgia farm; she picked cotton and churned butter. A Toledo resident since the 1930s, she devotes time to visit the sick.
Too, she's one fabulous baker, spending hours in the kitchen to create her much-in-demand sweet potato pies. And her pound cake? To die for.
Born April 13, 1911, Mrs. Boyd grew up in a large family, with eight sisters and three brothers.
Easily, she weaves stories about her childhood, when she and her twin Mary would watch their father and older brother kill chickens for their dinner. "So we decided we would catch baby chicks, pull their feathers, and roast them. Of course, this got us in a lot of trouble," she recalled.
Too, she has fond memories of going to elementary school where her sister Reatha was one of her teachers. "She was tough, but gave us good grades," she recalled.
Her family grew sweet potatoes and peanuts on the farm where she wasn't just frightened by cows, but all of the animals, including mules. She would run and holler if she saw one coming toward her.
"I tried to stay away from them and the cows," she said.
However, she had to get close enough to the cows to milk them. "I did milk the cows, but I always was afraid they were going to kick me," she said on a recent afternoon at the Woonsocket Road home she shares with her daughter Carol Yates.
Mrs. Yates and her sister Marilyn Gandy who lives near Canton, Mich., have organized a festive 100th birthday celebration for their mother. Nearly 300 guests are expected Saturday at L'Ambiance on Renwyck Drive in Toledo.
Mrs. Boyd still fusses over her looks, and loves to dress up. On this day, she has donned a plaid skirt and green sweater, plus red earrings and a most-trendy chunky red necklace.
She already has been on a shopping trip to find just the right outfit for her grand entrance at her 100th birthday bash. She selected a teal suit, and because she still likes to sparkle, she replaced the dark buttons with rhinestone buttons that add glitz and glitter. A matching silver hat and rhinestone earrings will set off the outfit just fine, Mrs. Boyd said.
"She must have had that hat since the '40s," her daughter said. "It looks perfect with her suit. She's going to look so good. It is her day to shine."
It's a wonder Mrs. Boyd has made it to this milestone, she said jokingly, "I nearly cooked myself to death."
Baking, she said, "is my best hobby. I always was at work in the kitchen."
Little wonder that inviting people to her home for dinner tops her list of favorite things to do in life. "I am close to my family. That's how I was raised," she said.
Added her daughter: "Mother's gift is her hospitality."
Mrs. Boyd is an active member of Friendship Baptist Church, which she joined in 1938 when she moved to Toledo. That same year, she married Ralph Boyd, now deceased.
She belongs to Helping Hands Sisters, an outreach effort that provides assistance to local people, such as after they are discharged from hospitals. Mrs. Boyd also fixes food for funeral dinners.
On the menu at her birthday party: ham, roasted and fried chicken, red potatoes, green beans, salads, and of course, special sweets, including seven different flavors of cupcakes, and a six-inch layer cake with 100 candles.
Mrs. Boyd was cook at the former Mary Manse College for several years, and was a nurse's aide. She retired in the late 1970s from the Family Services of Greater Toledo.
Although it's quite nice to be celebrating her 100th birthday, Mrs. Boyd is looking forward to life beyond the century mark. It's in the family genes, after all.
Two of her sisters lived to 104 years of age, and a brother was 102 when he died. Mrs. Boyd's twin died at age 95.
Still living are sisters Enzie Belle, 97, and Evelyn, 94.
"Mother needs to make 105, 106, 107, 108," said Mrs. Yates, her mom nodding in agreement.
Mrs. Boyd is excited about the July trip to the Bahamas, a four-day family reunion. And about that passport. A Georgia judge verified her age after her relatives presented a family Bible in which Martha's birth was recorded.
There's no secret to share about her longevity.
"I just did the normal things, being active in my community, spending time with my family. I was a homemaker. I helped the needy and visited the sick. I still do. I guess I thank the Lord for things going well for me and for my children's sake. I hope things continue to go well."