The year’s top news stories were “Robert E. Perry’s expedition is first to reach the North Pole” and “U.S. troops withdraw from Cuba.” The U.S. population was 90,490,000. A three-bedroom brick home had an average cost of $2,575. The annual average income was $518. A new Ford automobile cost $950. A dozen eggs cost 32 cents, a 1-pound loaf of bread was 5 cents and milk was 32 cents a gallon.
In the 1909 World Series, it was Pittsburgh over Detroit. Music heard at the time was “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” “I Wonder Who Is Kissing Her Now” and “Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet.”
On Saturday, April 10, that same year, Wilda Scott Witt made her entrance into the world at Parrottsville, in Cocke County. When both of her parents passed away in 1913, Wilda was placed in the Holston Home located in Greenville, where she grew up.
Life was not easy for Wilda and she went through many trials and tribulations, but in 1995 when the orphanage was having a 100-year anniversary, they contacted her about coming and giving a speech about the home. The governor of Tennessee was supposed to be the main speaker so she accepted. Of course, the local television station and other members of the media were to be there.
At the last minute, they found out the governor couldn’t be there, and Wilda found herself in the center of the spotlight. Without notes, she knocked their socks off and they gave her a standing ovation.
This is a little background about my friend Wilda Witt who now lives in Bluefield, W.Va.
Soon after my column began to run in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, she wrote me a letter and we have corresponded a number of times since then. I can tell you this for sure. Wilda makes some wonderful apple butter.
The reason I have decided to tell you about this dear lady is because she is past 90 years of age, she is still interested in people and is sharp as a tack. One of her daughters, Cecile Barrett, was once mayor of Bluefield and now takes care of Wilda in her home.
Back on July 20, 2002, the family was planning a big reunion and they asked Wilda to write down some words that would give the younger members some ideas about what had happened to family members over the years. Much of the information I have shared with you can be found in this small book titled, “Wilda’s Words,” but I was really impressed by the Introduction that was written by one of her grandsons, whose name is Jack.
He begins, “Wilda, Mom Maw as we know her, has been my grandmother for more than 53 years. She has never been afraid to try something new or to learn something new. Later, I learned to appreciate the joy of giving that she holds so dear. I have never known anyone who would so willingly give her last dollar or her last lump of coal.”
To be sure, people who live in this coal mining area of our country can appreciate what I am saying. On those cold winter days when the snow and biting wind made life miserable, and the coal pile was low, to have someone who cares about you so much they would give their last lump of coal, well, that expressed more than words could say. She’s a treasure and as I said earlier, she is sharp as a tack. Here are some proverbs she sent me in the mail a few days ago.
- “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” — John Barrymore
- “Love is a fruit in season at all times and is within the reach of every hand.” — Mother Teresa
- “The most solid stone in the structure is the lowest in the foundation.” — Kahlil Gibran
- “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” — Henry David Thoreau
- “When luck enters, give him a seat.” — Jewish Proverb
- “Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.” — Anne Frank
- “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” — Emily Dickinson
- “Stupidity won’t kill you, but it can make you sweat.” — English Proverb
- “Time is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I think about Wilda Witt and the life she has lived, I see someone who has gone through tough times and who came out on the other side with grace, dignity and charm; a person whose values place others above herself; and a person who will leave this world a little better than she found it.
I thank God that we still have lots of people in this great nation with these kinds of values. This is what has made America the greatest nation on earth.
Wilda Witt has touched my life and I am grateful. Hope you have been blessed as well.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)