Myrtle Bennett turns 100 today; she'll have a party

Nov. 18, 2012 @ 06:15 AM

SPINDALE — Today is Myrtle Bennett's big day.

The Centenarian can hardly believe she has made it to be 100 years old, and she declares "going to church" is the reason she's lived a long and good life. She is a lifelong member of Kistler's Chapel United Methodist Church, off Poors Ford Road.

Bennett is celebrating today with the loves of her life — a whole bunch of nieces and nephews — and friends at the Oakland Living Center where she resides.

If all goes according to her wishes, there will be a coconut cake for her — a favorite.

But that's the only thing she will call favorite. She tries to treat everyone the same, including the 16 nieces and nephews; the 17 great-nieces and nephews and the 20 great-greats. That's the way she was raised.

Born to William and Della Culbreth, she and her family lived in a rambling two-story white frame house that was located where the Oakland Living Center is today. She grew up there with her seven siblings; all are deceased except one brother who lives in Charlotte.

The old homeplace is still on the property — behind the center — and Bennett talked about the fresh spring (water) that runs from the property all the way through the woods to Mt. View Baptist Church area, off US 22, south of Rutherfordton. It has always been very special to her. 

She was married to Trigger Bennett, who passed away a few years ago. She says that the couple actually helped wash every single window in the Oakland Living Center when it was being constructed.  After the center was built, they moved across Oakland Road from the center, and lived in a brick veneer home until Bennett became ill earlier this year and moved to the center. 

Niece Zana Whitmire of Rutherfordton, who was with Bennett last week as she shared stories of her life, said Bennett is very special to her and the others.

The Bennetts didn't have children of their own, but proudly called her siblings' children their own.

"I loved everybody else's children," Bennett said, sitting in her  room. "I raised about 50 of them."

"They had a huge yard," Whitmire said. "And all the children came and played in the yard.  It became a favorite gathering place for the relatives and their friends.

While Trigger Bennett worked at Lowell Mill and later the Hoisery Mill in Spindale, Myrtle Bennett and a group of her nieces and nephews, tended the garden. They raised their own vegetables and some of their meats. 

"I was born working," Bennett said, "And I'm glad of it."

She took care of the garden and all the household chores, while Trigger Bennett worked on a public job.

When there was time for a hobby, she walked. As she got older, she started going to the Rutherford County Senior Center where she exercised on the treadmill and bicycle every day.

"She walked for miles," Whitmire said.  "And the children walked with her every step of the way."

Bennett talked a little about Thanksgiving and how she spent it "around the big table" at her mother's house.

"We have everything to eat you could have in the country," she remembered.

Sweet potatoes were a favorite.

A breast cancer survivor for over 20 years, Bennett is proud she's not been sick very often. 

Her favorite Bible Verse is the Golden Rule,

"Do unto others, as you would want them to do unto you," she whispered.

Her favorite hymn is, "I Love Jesus" she said,  and then began singing, "I love Jesus . . . Jesus."

And today on her 100th, all the family will be together to wish one of their "favorites," happy birthday.