Crisp’s oldest resident turns 108 on Friday

Published 8:55 am Thursday, February 18, 2021

By Neil B. McGahee

Managing Editor

As nieces and grandchildren flitter around the small house on 4th Avenue looking for old photos, Lucille Shazier sits on an old chair on her front porch, a space heater blasting warm air to her legs. She will celebrate her 108th birthday on Friday, making her unofficially the oldest person in Crisp County.

“I was born February 13, 1913 in Oakfield about halfway between Cordele and Albany,” she said. “My mother died when I was two, and my daddy took me to my aunt’s house in Cordele and she raised me.”

To put that in perspective, William Howard Taft was President of the United States; World War I hadn’t happened yet and the Great Depression was still 16 years away.”

Lucille says she has no plans to celebrate the milestone birthday.

“I’ll probably go to my church, Greater Morris Tabernacle Baptist Church ,” she said.” And then I’ll just sit around talking to my family and friends.”

When asked about her most vivid memories, she didn’t hesitate

“It was about 10 years old when I met Jesus,” she said, a big grin spreading across her cheeks.

“When I was growing up, children didn’t hang around with grownups,” she said. “They were supposed to be playing outside or working chores or playing or doing something, but we weren’t supposed to be around the grown-ups.

She said she retreated to a place under the front porch and began making dolls out of grass. Then she made dollhouses with sticks and used dirt to decorate them..

A woman came to visit so Lucille went outside to play with her dolls. She could hear her mother and the woman talking about Jesus and she stopped in the middle of the room right where she was and just hugged him.

“I couldn’t see him but I knew he was there,” she said. “So I went to Gum Creek with a group from Greater Morris Tabernacle Baptist Church to be baptized.”

She recalled taking the Shoo Fly train from Cordele to Fitzgerald to visit her father. He would travel from Ocilla to Fitzgerald in his mule-drawn wagon to pick her up and take her to the farm, where she would have to work.

In those days, all cotton was picked by hand and the speedy pickers got the most money. Lucille was a young girl and could not work as fast as everyone else, but her father had her out with him harvesting cotton and was telling her that she had to work faster to keep up.

“I prayed, “Dear Jesus, you know I’m working as fast as I can. Please help me.”

She said she looked out ahead of her and saw a long blank spot on the row ahead of her.

“I ran past that empty spot in the row and caught up with everyone else,” she said. “And I caught up with all the others.”

She said she worked hard her whole life, mainly doing domestic work. She says hard work; a love for Jesus and eating healthy is her secret to aging so well.

She has vivid memories of sitting on a porch in the evening listening to the radio with friends. She also remembered the first time she got to vote.

“They didn’t let colored people vote,” she said. “My friend told me I could vote and I have voted ever since.

Other memories include the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said he dreamed that one day “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That day came true when Barack Obama was elected President.

“He was elected because he was a good man,” she said. “It didn’t matter about the color of his skin.”

 

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Beal-Shephard tries to weather the storm over City HallBy Neil B. McGahee Managing Editor Cordele City Commissioner Vesta Beal-Shephard was elected in 2001 to represent the people of Ward One. By all accounts, she has done a very good job of relating to the citizens living in her ward. Recently, however, a dark cloud has settled over City Hall. From the first day of his term, newly-elected commission chairman Joshua Antwan Deriso began taking verbal snipes on social media at some of the other commissioners. Shephard says she just ignored it at first but on April 9, Deriso posted on Facebook “…It was much anticipated for Comm. Rainey to be against change. Comission (sp) Shephard fights against me the hardest…does not know much about government at all…She needs to be voted out next year 2023.” A few days later, he posted live saying …“I am totally over the games, the political stuff…a lot of people want to make what I said about Commissioner Shephard something about disagreement with Commissioner Shephard. It was her ignorance and short-sightedness…not able to understand what we can do as a government. “When there were people in charge that didn’t look like us…white people… she didn’t question anything. Since I became chairman, she has blocked everything…you don’t know what you are doing; you don’t know what you are talking about.” Shephard winces as she listens to Deriso. “I don’t do drama and I don’t do pettiness,” she said. “I refute everything he has said about me. I’m not angry with Josh; I am somewhat disturbed that he has targeted me, a citizen of Cordele; a black female…he accused me of loving white folks. Well I do love white folks, and brown folks and black folks — Haitian, Jamaican, Indian, Cuban, Mexican — I have no discrimination to anyone. My job is to facilitate for people in this ward and when I vote, I vote my conviction.” Shephard said she doesn’t know why Deriso has such hard feelings against her. “It’s so sad, I have to say that I never saw it coming,” she said. ”But I have to voice my opinion.” But one sad thing has evolved from this. “This is the first time I have been discriminated against by a fellow commissioner,” she said. “I used to invite people to my home if they had a problem. But I had to stop that. If you want to meet with me, we will have to go to a public area or to my office at city hall. I am going to keep my distance for the simple reason that I don’t want to endanger myself.