LOOKING UP: One day short of 102
Thursday, 31 January 2013 by Joe Baisden
According to Billy Wilbanks, nephew of my 42-year neighbor Lois Martin, as Lois kept living on and on, when asked, "Have you lived all your life in Bell County?" she would answer, "Not yet!" Then, on Jan. 8, just one day before her 102nd birthday, she left Belton and Bell County for realms above.
In Psalm 90:10, the Bible says "Our days may come to 70 years, or 80, if our strength endures." Lois's strength endured 22 years past that prediction. We might wonder how many times she sang with the church the words of the song, "I'll Fly Away," in those extra years. The remainder of verse 10 says of those years, "They quickly pass, and we fly away."
Lois was born Jan. 9, 1911, in Belton. Her parents were Frank and Daisie Heartfield Garner. Her early years were lived at the community of Tennessee Valley, now under the waters of Lake Belton. In time, they moved into Belton, and then Temple, where she graduated from high school. She married Alton C. Martin in 1936 and the couple moved to Belton in 1953.
She did, after all, live all of her life in Bell County. She saw one of the first automobiles that came to the county. She rode into Belton in it (or on it, as the case may be) with Dr. J. W. Pittman at the wheel. She and her sister Wilma saw the very first football game between Temple and Belton that Belton won. Her mind remained sharp until the very last.
After her husband Alton died in 1993, Lois continued to be active in the church, caring for grandchildren and great-grandchildren, having and visiting garage sales, and feeding the squirrels in her backyard.
Health issues resulted in her having to wear a "life alert" button around her neck. Her son Dan was still working and traveling out of town, so l was designated as the first person to call when her alarm was activated. I was still on the staff at the church at the time. I would receive a call and hear the words, "Mrs. Martin has activated her alarm and we get no answer when she is called on the phone." I would leave the office and dash to her house to check on her. It was always a relief to find that she had only been washing her hair, and while leaning over the sink, the button was accidentally pushed. Her hearing was impaired and she would not hear the telephone.
This happened several times, and then one night about 3 o'clock in the morning, our house phone rang with a message that Mrs. Martin's alarm had been activated. Janelle and I got up, threw on some clothes, and taking the key to her house, we walked across our yards to her front door. I turned to Janelle and said, "We are either going to find her dead, or I am going to scare her to death waking her up." Sure enough, she had turned over on her alarm button and was sound asleep.
I began to shout, "Lois! Lois!" as loudly as I could. Finally, she woke up and began to come out of the bed screaming in fright with her arms whirling like a windmill. She just about scared all three of us to death, and then we enjoyed a season of laughter.
Lois never lost her sense of humor. More often than not, she would refer to me as "Neighbor" rather than "Joe." Ultimately, she had to give up her car—probably one of the most painful things about her aging. Early on my 70th birthday (six years ago), Sue Groveunder placed a huge sign in my yard that read: "HONK! JOE B. IS 70!" About midday, Lois called me on the phone, and with a tinge of resentment in her voice said, "Neighbor! I'd honk, if I had a honker!"
Health issues ultimately sent her into a nursing home. Through the changes she encountered over the years, she showed that she, like the Apostle Paul, had "learned to be content in all circumstances. " In this last environment, she told her son Dan, "This is where I need to be, and I have got to help these old people!"
Jesus said, "I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Lois Martin lived her 102 years to the full and was a blessing to countless others.
"The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, . . . They will still bear fruit in old age." – Psa. 90:12, 14