It’s not every day someone turns 100 years old, and the most frequent question posed is, “What is the secret to such a long life?”
One of nine children, Ethel Volentine, who turned 100 Monday, said her secret is hard work.
“We raised everything we ate,” she said, “and it doesn’t take money to make happiness.”
Volentine described her life as full and rich. She raised three children and four grandchildren. She married “Tinker” Volentine at 18 years of age in 1935 and the two were married for 46 years before he died from a sudden heart attack.
During the Great Depression, she gave a few snippets of her life, saying during the first few years of marriage, they lived in a “shack with no running water or electricity.”
She tended to a garden and learned how to can.
“We lived on biscuits and gravy for breakfast and dry beans and cornbread for supper,” she said. “Those were terrible times, because sometimes my husband didn’t have work at all. He finally got a job working for the highway department and we bought our first house.”
Tinker Volentine worked odd jobs, in which he earned 50 cents per day during the early years, she said. He then opened the Gulf Station on Shreveport Road, owning and operating it for about 20 years.
After graduating from Bienville High School in 1934, she continued her education to become a stenographer; however, it wasn’t meant to be. When she got married, three children came along, and one day after her children were grown and making their way in life, her grandchildren – Elaine, Buddy George and Allen George showed up on her doorstep and never left, she said. After her grandchildren began growing up, she babysat two, who she said were like grandchildren to her, Dalton and Will.
Volentine has one living sibling, her sister, Jule Aldy, who is 88 years old. She has a total of seven grandchildren, two of who have died, her daughter, Nellie Holcomb said, and several great-grandchildren. Volentine now lives with her in Spring, Texas. Holcomb said her mother stays busy with crossword puzzles, puzzles, church and other activities. She still takes care of herself, although she has some difficulty walking at times.
She takes no medications other than an aspirin following a mini-stroke a few years ago.
“I went to live with my daughter when I was 95, and I was still driving my car,” she said.
During a birthday party at the Community House Sunday afternoon, Michael McCoy, who considers Volentine his grandmother and was best friends with her grandson Buddy George, told stories about growing up with Volentine.
“Since 1974, she has been a grandmother to me,” he said. “She is one special angel, and she will have a special place in heaven. My main thing with Mrs. Volentine is the compassion and love and appreciation she’s shown, not just her grandchildren or the children down the road, but for children from any school or church, she is a grandmother to everybody. All you have to do is get around her and love her for what she is. She is a true Christian lady.”
Five generations of Volentine’s family came to celebrate her birthday, along with friends, neighbors and others. She was presented with a T-shirt with “100 down and 100 to go” printed on the front, a chicken trophy (in honor of McCoy’s memory of raising and eating chicken quite often with her family) and a plaque commemorating her 100th birthday. Birthday cake and light snacks were served.