CRESTVIEW — Vera Harold Owen, who turns 100 years old on Saturday, recalls a childhood of chasing boll weevils and picking cotton on a Southern Georgia family farm.
Before she reaches the milestone, she shared her life story — and some life lessons — while celebrating with friends at the Crestview Rehabilitation Center.
Being the second of six children, with two younger sisters and three brothers, she said she was left to take care of the house and family while her mother often traveled as a midwife and her father worked in the field.
Owen and her late husband, Sam, grew up in the same neighborhood and married at 18 and 25, respectively, before buying a farm in the deep woods of Ashburn, Ga., and having two children.
Her upbringing and farm life prepared her for plenty of work to come.
“Hard work might hurt you, but it sure won’t kill you,” Owen said, referring to long hours spent in fields of cotton, corn and livestock when she wasn’t serving as the manager of a men’s dress-pant factory.
While controversy loomed as needles worked and bobbins spun, Owen said she was one of the few willing to train black women in the factory. Skin color didn't faze her; after all, they needed the work as much as anyone else, she said.
“We was just in a small town, and you know that town just prospered because everybody in town who wanted a job could go get a job … it was a good time,” she said.
She recalled being happy that some of the women remembered her as the one who taught them how to sew when she returned to the factory town years ago.
“I would be so proud that I had done something for somebody,” she said.
In addition to investing in others, Owen said her best advice is to be true to oneself; to live a good life.
What does that mean to Owen?
“Don’t live falsely. Live like you are. Live your character just like your character is … Don’t brag about nothing. Don’t make people think you’re what you’re not. Be what you want to be.
“To be what you want to be, be truthful, be loving and kind. Be kind to everybody.”