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TIFFIN — When Audrey Lott turned 100, then-U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor read a tribute to the granddaughter of a former slave into the Congressional Record.
When Mrs. Lott turned 103, the local newspaper wrote a feature story about the Washington, D.C., native who had made Tiffin her home in the 1960s. Last year, on her 108th birthday, the St. Francis Home where she now lives threw a party for her.
In advance of turning 109 today, Mrs. Lott said she doesn’t want a party, though she does like cake.
“Any kind of cake,” she said, resting her perfectly manicured hands in her lap. “I used to make a good chocolate layered cake. And I like gingerbread.”
Mrs. Lott, a favorite among the staff at the St. Francis Home, is the oldest resident from as far back as anyone can recall. She spends most of her days in her lavender-colored room, reading books — she prefers westerns — watching her “stories” on TV, working crossword puzzles, and chatting with visitors.
“I’m up there,” she said with a smile about her age. “I feel fine. I don’t have no doctor appointment or nothing. I feel good.”
Jennifer Montoney, life enrichment coordinator at the St. Francis Home, said Mrs. Lott enjoys music and loves to dance. “Usually she prefers to stay in her room, but when we get her out, she has a fun time,” she said.
Born Oct. 18, 1903, Mrs. Lott said she has no particular age in mind for herself.
Her life has had its challenges, its losses, but she looks back proudly as she speaks of her family, of their experiences and hers. She was born and reared in the nation’s capital where her grandfather took a job with the War Department following the Civil War.
“My grandfather was a water boy for General Grant in the Civil War,” Mrs. Lott said. “After the war General Grant saw to it that he got a job in the government. He promised him a job in the government.”
She attended Dunbar High School, the first public high school for black students, and attended a pharmacology school for a short time. Her father, who worked at a fish market, contracted tuberculosis and died when he was just 35. The eldest of four children, Mrs. Lott said she had to work to help her mother support the family.
She worked at the soda fountain of a drug store and later became an upstairs maid at the Daughters of the American Revolution House in Washington. It was there that she had the opportunity to work at parties and rub elbows with two First Ladies — Eleanor Roosevelt and Bess Truman — on several occasions.
“I waited on them at parties,” Mrs. Lott recalled. “Mrs. Truman was very quiet and didn’t have much to say, but Mrs. Roosevelt would ask our names, talk to us. Mrs. Truman was too shy to do that but she was nice. They were both nice.”
She married Grant Taylor, who she said came from a good family but was not so good himself.
“He gambled and he drank,” Mrs. Lott said matter-of-factly. “He gambled his clothes away. He’d leave in his good clothes and come back in someone else’s pants and shirt and jacket.”
Though her first husband died at a young age, the marriage produced Mrs. Lott’s only child, also named Grant Taylor, who would go on to become the first black postmaster in Tiffin.
After Mrs. Lott’s second husband, Clentis Lott, died, she moved to Tiffin to be near her son. She said she did general housework for a family in Tiffin and eventually made her home at Kiwanis Manor of Tiffin, a high-rise apartment building for senior citizens. Angie Bulger of Fremont, Mrs. Lott’s great-granddaughter, said Mrs. Lott lived independently there until she fell and broke her hip at age 99.
Ms. Bulger said she plans to cook up her great-grandmother's favorite dinner for her birthday — collard greens and chicken — and bring along some cake and ice cream too. She said she enjoys bringing her three children to visit their great-great-grandmother.
“They tell all their friends how old she is and nobody believes them,” Mrs. Bulger said. “I don’t think Gram believes it. I say, ‘Gram you’re going to be 109,’ and she says, ‘What?’”
Mrs. Lott, who has outlived her siblings and even her son, attributes her longevity to healthful eating. She said she smoked for a time when she was younger and drank socially, but not to excess. “We ate like we should,” she said. “There wasn’t no junk food when I came along. We came up on good solid food.”
Asked whether she ever expected to see an African-American president, she shrugged.
“Times have changed,” Mrs. Lott said. “He’s all right. I don’t know that much about him. I don’t keep up with politics like I used to, like I should.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.