Alice Walker Turpin has a birthday Thursday, September 5 – she will be 100 years old.
She has experienced racial inequality and vividly remembers the separation of blacks and whites in public places while growing up and raising her family in South Hill, Virginia.
She participated in one of the largest political rallies for human rights, when she and her daughter stood on a curb in Washington listening to Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. And one thing she hoped to see before she died was to see a black man as president and she did with the election of our 44th and current president, President Barak Obama.
With five generations, her oldest living child is 79 years old and the youngest great-grand-child is six months – two husbands, both deceased; six children, three surviving; 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grand children. She lives in North Chesterfield with her nephew.
“I feel good,” she said days before her birthday. “I get up every morning at six, cook my own breakfast and go to the community center. I am the oldest one in there.” Turpin attends the senior center program twice each week located at New Covenant Presbyterian Church in North Chesterfield. “I enjoy getting out, I enjoy the people,” she said. “I like to laugh.”
Turpin says she can’t get around and do what she would like to do but she manages well. She said she always wants to get up and go. She needs no support of a walker, hears and sees well and loves crossword puzzles. Her only complaint is arthritis “in every bone of my body” she says and it only acts up when it rains. She has only been hospitalized once, aside from having children, when she was 98. A surprise birthday party caught her off guard and she began experiencing dizziness and was rushed to the hospital for evaluation. After a brief stay and diagnose with vertigo, she now takes medicine to keep the vertigo under control, a high blood pressure pill and an aspirin.
“Five pills every day,” she said. “And I never took any until I ended up in the hospital.”
Turpin was born in Danville, one of nine children, and raised in South Hill. Her mother died in child birth at the age of 32. “My daddy raised all nine of us,” she said. “And he sometimes talked to us just like he was our mother. You know, teaching us how to act and walk.” Her dad lived into his 80s, but her dad’s aunt lived to be 107 years old.
Turpin’s first husband also died when he was young and she had to raise their five children alone. “I worked two jobs for five years until my children graduated from school,” she said. “I wanted them to have a good education.” Her sister took care of her children while she worked.
She worked 17 years at the bus station in South Hill. Work at the local hospital, made tents for the army during World War II and retired at the age of 88 while working in a senior center in Pennsylvania as their cook. “She loves to cook,” said her daughter, Betty Walker. “And still does. She also loves to make cakes.”
Turpin had two sons in the service and was able to travel a lot. “When Christmas time came around they would send me a ticket,” she said. She has traveled the world. “Japan, Germany, Canada,” she said. “Where ever they were and it was Christmas time, that’s where I went. I enjoyed it.”
Turpin attributes her long life to her beliefs. “I believe in the Lord and he takes care of me,” she said. “I also believe in treating people right. Do the right thing. Go to church. If a person needs help – help them. Don’t expect anything in return. I think that is why God is blessing me.”
Turpin has served her church as a Sunday school teacher, president of the Usher Board, and continues to serve for the last 20 years, Vice President of the Hospitality Club for 22 years and continues to serve on the Missionary Board. She never goes to church without a hat and attends most Sundays.
“I hope to live a little longer,” she said. “Maybe 105…I just wish my children would let me sleep during the day. They are always calling and checking up on me.”
Happy Birthday Alice Walker Turpin.