Reflections over a century: Crestview woman celebrates 100th birthday

bertha corkins and family

Bertha Mae Corkins turned 100 years old Jan. 3. She lives with her son and daughter-in-law, Chuck and Madelyn Corkins, in the Garden City home Chuck built.

BRIAN HUGHES | News Bulletin
Published: Monday, January 7, 2013 at 05:42 PM.

CRESTVIEW — There were laughs, hugs, balloons and cake aplenty at the First Presbyterian Church Jan. 3, when longtime member Bertha Mae Corkins celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family, church family and friends. Unable to find a 100th birthday balloon, friends presented her with two 50-year balloons.

Corkins was born to Martha and Alton Smith in Mossy Head in 1913, before Crestview was a city and before Okaloosa County existed. Her father worked at the Louisville and Nashville Railroad managing a stretch of track in the Mossy Head area.

After the city’s incorporation, Alton Smith became a city council member and was roads commissioner. His daughter shared his concern and affection for Crestview, and over the years was instrumental in spearheading multiple civic improvements, including beautifying the triangular median that once graced the State Road 85-U.S. Highway 90 intersection. She and her husband, Charles Wesley Corkins, helped organize the Auburn Water System.

Bertha Mae married Charles on June 6, 1933, and with her only son, Charles Jr., followed her husband around the country during his 30 years in the Navy. During World War II, she worked in the defense industry in Pensacola.

Originally an enlisted seaman, Charles Corkins Sr.’s wartime service allowed him to advance to a warrant officer, finishing the war as a lieutenant. He ultimately retired as a commander. For about a year in 1956, both Bertha Mae’s son and her husband were on active duty at the same time at the same post.

While her husband was stationed in Pensacola, Bertha Mae helped establish an enlisted wives’ club. Among other civic contributions, club members were hospital volunteers.

“She had, believe it or not, a bout with cancer in the 1940s,” Charles Corkins Jr. said. “It was surgically removed and she’s never had a problem since. She’s always been pretty healthy. I think we were healthier back then, living in the country. And she never went sunbathing. She always wore sun bonnets.”

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