Doughty hits the century mark

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FRANKLIN—Mildred Doughty still has a valid driver’s license and a car, yet uses neither.

At 96, Doughty gave up driving, but she occasionally gets the urge to get behind the wheel of her 1997 Buick — the last car her late husband, Lonnie, purchased for her.

“I wouldn’t mind (driving),” said Doughty, who turns 100 today.

“The state of Virginia gave her a driver’s license for five years at (age) 95,” her daughter Linda Mahoney added.

At 100, Doughty’s mind remains sharp and she says she’s in good health, almost free of any medication. Doughty takes one blue pill daily and she doesn’t know what it’s for.

“I feel great,” she said. “I can still walk and I still have my mind.”

“My sisters and I say she’s in better health than we are,” Mahoney added.

Doughty moved from her Franklin apartment to the Village at Woods Edge 3½ years ago at the recommendation of her doctor. She didn’t feel she was ready for an assisted living center.

“I felt I could still take care of myself and cook,” Doughty said.

Her hearing is going, yet glasses keep her eyesight in check and she doesn’t worry about what she eats. Doughty still goes out to get her hair and nails done.

Doughty remembers her birthday, her wedding anniversary and her four daughters’ birthdays.

Mahoney attributes her mother’s memory to playing Bridge, which she still does once every two weeks.

“She’s played so much that she has the mind of a 25-year-old,” Mahoney said.

Doughty attributes her longevity to “clean living.” She used to be a casual drinker and smoked for one year while working as a teacher.

“I smoked because we weren’t supposed to,” Doughty said.

Her daughter, Carolyn Chio, attributes her mother’s youthfulness to her zest for life.

“She’s been so active and determined not to give up and go forward with life,” Chio said.

The toughest time in Doughty’s life was the Great Depression from the early 1930s.

“You couldn’t get supplies and whatever you needed,” she said. “I remember our motto — ‘eat it up, wear it out, make it do and do without it.’ It meant using everything you had and doing without some things you needed.”

She also faced tough times when Chio was stricken with polio in the 1950s. The then 3-year-old was hospitalized in Richmond for 4½ months and paralyzed from the waist down.

To celebrate Doughty’s birthday, a party will be held today, June 16, at the assisted living center at the Village at Woods Edge. On Saturday, June 26, 180 people are invited to a party for Doughty, which will also be held at the Village.

Doughty was born June 16, 1910, in Courtland to George Kenneth and Viola Whitehead Williams.

When she was born, neighbor T.H. Birdsong, founder of Birdsong Peanuts, gave the family a bottle of Minnehaha wine. It was never uncorked. It took 96 years for the wine to evaporate.

“I still have the bottle,” Doughty said. It comes out for every birthday celebration.

Doughty was the oldest of three children; her brother George passed in 1987 at age 75 and her sister, Rebecca Davis, 85, lives in Suffolk.

Doughty graduated from Suffolk High School in 1928 and the College of William and Mary in 1932.

She taught school for five years in Crewe, Va., prior to marrying her husband in 1936. Then she taught in Portsmouth.

The couple moved to Franklin in 1947, where Lonnie Doughty opened Franklin Dodge Plymouth. They moved to Portsmouth in 1952 and Lonnie Doughty opened another dealership. When the couple returned to Franklin in 1954, they opened Doughty Buick, Pontiac Oldsmobile, which they sold in 1974.

In addition to Mahoney, 66, and Chio, 63, of Sun City, Ariz., other daughters are Gwynn Doughty, 58, of San Mateo, Calif., and Elaine Burkhart, 78, of Clayton, Ga. Mildred Doughty has three grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

A member of High Street Methodist Church, Doughty assisted with Sunday’s groundbreaking for a new building. She is the oldest member of the church, where she’s in the Friendship Bible Class and has taught in the children and adult departments.

Doughty belongs to the church’s United Methodist Women and Ruthie Ponder Circle. She was one of the original organizers of the United Methodist Women’s Annual Luncheon and Bazaar.

Doughty is a former member of Southampton Garden Club, Cypress Cove Country Club and Franklin Woman’s Club. In 1966, while president of the Woman’s Club, she helped organize Franklin Junior Woman’s Club.

On April 30, 2007, Doughty was recognized by the alumni association at William and Mary for her class’ 75th reunion. A personalized brick is to be placed in her honor in Clarke Plaza at the Alumni House.

Doughty also belonged to The Community Presbyterian Church in Lauderdale by the Sea, Fla., and Pompano Beach and Imperial Point Colonnades shuffleboard clubs.