Family and friends are making plans to celebrate the 100th birthday of Ella Jane Samuel Hodge, who will hit the century mark on May 29.
“I didn’t think I’d make it,” she said.
Hodge has the usual ailments that bother older people. Cataracts are stealing her sight and she’s bedridden, but she still has a quick smile and an easy sense of humor.
She lives in Coral Bay with her only daughter, Yvonne Wells, her son-in-law Warren Wells, and his 102-year-old father, Ernest Wells.
Granddaughter Dionne Wells lives next door with her three children. She also has other grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Atlanta and on St. Thomas.
Coral Bay was a very different place when Hodge was growing up. She said she was born just up the hill from where she now lives.
“My grandmother used to live here,” she said.
She went to what is now Guy Benjamin School, later attending private school at the Moravian Mission, now Emmaus Moravian Church.
Her mother died when she was 12, so it was up to Hodge to take care of her siblings. Only one of the nine besides Hodge, Catherine Liburd, is still alive.
Farming was the main occupation for most of the people in the Coral Bay area, and Hodge spoke about churning butter using a calabash and a bottle.
She rode horses back and forth to Cruz Bay and taught piano and organ to some of St. John’s better-known musicians.
“I was at the Lutheran Church for 22 years,” she said, referring to her organist’s job at Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cruz Bay.
She also worked at the Social Welfare Department’s sewing project, making school uniforms and clothing for those in need; and she worked as a milliner.
“She’s very artistic,” Yvonne Wells said.
According to Wells, her mother made her own patterns using paper bags and cut fabric with big tailor’s shears.
Hodge tried to retire in the 1970s but found that money she thought she had paid into Social Security instead went right into the local government’s General Fund. So, she went back to work in the Foster Grandparent Program at Guy Benjamin School. Eventually she accumulated enough time on the job and retired.
Her daughter attributes her mother’s long life to her choice of fruits and vegetables in her diet.
“I’ve never known her to consume much meat,” Wells said.
When asked her advice for those younger than her she had a quick answer.
“We should love each other,” she said.