It’s her ‘103rd’ party

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2009

Agnes Gatlin has lived through things that most Americans have only read about in history books. She’s lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression and the first manned mission to the moon, but there’s one moment in her life she enjoyed best of all.

“It was after I graduated from college,” she said. “The state sent me to Huntsville to take care of the branch library there, and that’s where I met my husband. That was my favorite experience.”

Mrs. Gatlin turned 103 on Wednesday, and friends and family threw her a party to celebrate the occasion at Savannah Terrace. She also received commendations from both the Covington County Commission and the Andalusia City Council. In the council’s proclamation, Mayor Earl Johnson declared it “Agnes Gatlin Day.”

Mrs. Gatlin credited her longevity to a healthy diet and divine providence.

“I studied about foods in school, so I try to eat what’s good for me,” said Mrs. Gatlin, who describes herself as still in good health, other than vision and hearing troubles. “I don’t eat a lot of starches, and I try to mix it up with vegetables. But mainly, it’s because the Good Lord has been so good to me.”

Mrs. Gatlin was born on Dec. 9, 1906, in the Coldwater community of Covington County. She lived in the county before going to college at the University of Montevallo, and then moved to Huntsville after college, where she married Buford Lee Gatlin and worked at the Madison County Health Department.

Buford Gatlin died in 1946, and she never remarried. She was the director of the department until her retirement in 1973, when she moved back home to Covington County.

Mrs. Gatlin said the most impressive new invention she can remember was when she turned on a television set for the first time.

“That was really something,” she said. “It was a wonderful invention. You could learn so much through the TV. I never really got into computers. I had already retired well before they were starting to use computers.”

Recently, Mrs. Gatlin was one of several sources the state health department interviewed about the 1918 flu epidemic. The virus that was responsible for the 1918 epidemic is remarkably similar to the current H1N1 “swine flu” strain.

“I was 12 years old when the flu was going around,” Mrs. Gatlin said. “Everybody was scared they were going to get it. The people from the state brought a camera and asked me some questions about what I remember. I think they wanted to know anything that could help them prepare for (this year’s H1N1 flu).”

Mrs. Gatlin said she’d already been sure to have “both her shots” for this year’s H1N1 strain. She added that she would much rather take a shot than have to take pills.

“I had three sisters and two brothers, and they were always having to take a lot of pills,” she said. “I don’t like to take pills. If there’s a shot available, I always say, ‘give me that instead!’”

Mrs. Gatlin did not have any children, but her 98-year-old sister, Mayme Colvin, still lives in Prattville.