Frances Holt celebrates 100 years of living today

Published 9:48 am Friday, June 27, 2014

FRANKLIN—The thought of becoming 100 years old today doesn’t bother Frances Blythe Holt in the least.

Frances Blythe Holt has lived a life of family, education, church and community. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Frances Blythe Holt has lived a life of family, education, church and community. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

“I’ve been laughing about it,” she said on Thursday with a broad smile as her hands lightly played with one of the many birthday cards she’s already received.

Relaxed in an easy chair at the library of East Pavilion, Holt’s dressed in comfortable slacks, a white blouse and soft pink sweater. Her hair’s styled in preparation for the big day. She’s ready.

Helping her through all these decades hasn’t required a special diet or set of rituals.

“I just lived my life,” Holt said. “I’ve always been active.”

A large part of that activity — 40 years worth — was devoted to teaching. Though she did cover fourth- through seventh-grades, it’s the youngest level that stands out in her memory. Holt seems a little more animated in the way she looks as she speaks about her students from years ago.

“I taught fourth-grade. I loved the children. I’ve always loved the children,” she said, adding a recollection of taking several of them with other teachers on a field trip to Williamsburg.

In addition to teaching in Franklin, Holt also served in Ivor and Sebrell.

Love of learning got her into the career. She wanted to teach ever since she herself was in fourth-grade. Holt went to Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg to learn how to become a teacher.

“I loved school,” she said. So much so that even after retiring, Holt filled in as a substitute and also tutored.

Sarah Page Gherken, who said she was one of her fourth-grade students, came by the Pavilion yesterday to decorate her door for the celebration.

“She’s just a very special lady,” said Gherken.

But teaching wasn’t Holt’s entire life. She did have a family with the late Emmett Watson Holt. Their two sons are Bob Holt and Jim Holt, the latter of which is expected to visit today.

“One thing I’ve always admired about her is she quit teaching and stayed home to raise my brother and me,” said Bob Holt. “I really admired that. And then she went back when I was a junior in high school. She helped with Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and at church.”

“I’m a retired college professor,” he added, “but was a C student in high school. She helped me with spelling and such.”

“I have two wonderful sons,” their mother said about her boys. “They were all interested in school…I’d have loved to had a girl..but they [the boys] never gave us any trouble.”

She herself is the daughter of Annie Betty and Clifton Blythe, and granddaughter of Talitha Frances Whitley Edwards. Holt remembers her fondly.

“She was a very simple, kind and loving grandmother. She is — was — a wonderful person.”

On July 4, Holt with join with other relations near and far as they celebrate the Whitley Family’s 150th reunion. Grandmother Edwards was the daughter of Mary Eliza Barnes and Elisha Everette Whitley. After he returned from serving in the Civil War, his sisters reportedly gave him a dinner on his birthday, which was Independence Day. At his request, this became a family custom and it’s continued since.

“Yes, I went to the family reunions. I love the families,” Holt said, but added she couldn’t remember any specific events. “There were so many reunions.”

Growing up on Norfleet Street with her parents and brothers, she became active at her church, the old High Street United Methodist. Holt was involved with such programs as Sunday School and UMC women. Bob Holt added that his mother was also a founding member of the Franklin Woman’s Club.

Now she’s settled for a time at the Pavilion, and though she hopes to one day return home, she’s pleased with her situation.

“They’re mighty good to me here,” said Holt. “It’s a regular life.”

Asked if could live her life over to change anything, she’s firm in the refusal.

“No, I wouldn’t change anything. My parents were nice. We had a good home,” said Holt. “I guess I’m satisfied with the way things are.”