Gertrude Aldrich celebrates 100th birthday

  • Several generations of Gertrude Aldrich’s family joined her for her 100th birthday on September 17.

In her 100 years of life, Gertrude Vessie Morris Aldrich has never stopped learning or let life get her down.

The former Williston resident celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the home of her son and daughter-in-law, Larry and Brenda Aldrich, in Williston. Dozens of her family and friends were in attendance.

“She is still just as spry as she’s always been,” said Larry Aldrich of his mother, who now resides at Harbor Chase, an assisted living home in Aiken.

Gertrude Aldrich was born on Sept. 17, 1917 and grew up in Greene County, Virginia where her father owned a country store. She remembers President Herbert Hoover giving a speech after landing in a blimp in a nearby field.

She later attended Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., but didn’t complete her degree because she met her future husband, James C. Aldrich. The couple married and her husband started his career as a Church of God minister.

In 1964, her husband was killed in a truck accident. However, she did not let this stop her.

Gertrude left her good-paying job at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. to complete her final two years of college. At the age of 48 she returned to Lee University, a Church of God college. Her son was also at the same school while her two daughters were attending American University.

“She’s always been a person who has never given up,” said Larry of his mother. He said her example, particularly after the death of his father, shows that everything happens for a reason and can be used for good. “We are to utilize that for the best of other people,” he said.

After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in administration and a minor in Christian education, Gertrude attended Xavier University in Ohio to obtain her master’s degree in counseling.

She returned to Lee University to work as Dean of Women, a job she held for 12 years, said her son.

Gertrude “retired” and moved to Williston to be close to her son Larry and his family. She taught at the elementary school for two years where some of her grandchildren were her students, although they also received educational and spiritual lessons at home.

She went to Virginia to teach for a couple years at a private school near one of her daughters, although she kept her house in Williston. She then retired and returned to Williston.

At the age of 69, Larry Aldrich said his mother accepted a job in China teaching English. She was also part of a 10-day vacation tour to Israel and Egypt when she was in her seventies.

After returning to Williston once again, she eventually sold her house and moved in with her son and daughter-in-law. She lived there until earlier this year.

Larry Aldrich said he’s not sure what the secret is to his mother’s longevity, but faith has always been a priority in her life.

Gertrude also loves to challenge her mind, which has been evident throughout her college and career adventures. “She’s a very studious reader,” said Larry.

She has left a good legacy for her three children, 10 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren, who are all scattered across the country. Larry Aldrich lives in Williston while his sister Carolyn Abbott lives in Gainesville, Va. and other sister Miriam Cross is in Madison, Wisconsin.

A number of Gertrude’s relatives have followed in her educational footsteps as she has three grandchildren who are college professors and two who are public school teachers. Larry Aldrich was also a teacher and principal for 18 years before retiring to build houses. A son-in-law is the president of the University of Wisconsin.

Gertrude’s eldest great-grandchild recently graduated from college while her youngest is three years old.

Even in her new home at Harbor Chase, Aldrich said his mother’s life “is still having an effect on people.” He said people at the assisted living home constantly talk about how sweet and caring his mother is toward other residents, staff and visitors.