This web page is my tribute to my favorite cousin on her reaching one full century of life. The first time I met Josie Braddock Bennett was at the 1996 Braddock/Higginbotham reunion in Callahan, Florida, the first I ever attended. The fact that my father died when I was five and I had moved from Florida to South Carolina in 1941 at the age of eleven, until the reunion I knew only three Braddocks besides my children, my brother, my uncle, and his daughter. One of the first persons I encountered at the reunion was Josie. During the course of our conversation, she asked who my father was. When I replied Arnold Lee Braddock, a big smile appeared on her face and she began to tell me tale after tale about my father, her first cousin, I had not heard before, tales of when she and my father were kids together. After a while, I said to myself, "Wait a minute! This woman looks and sounds much too young to have known my father. He was born in 1903." I soon learned she was 87, having been born only six years after my father. Seeing and talking to her at reunions and historical events over the next fourteen years, I fell deeper and deeper in love with her. She is loveable. One of my proudest moments was at the 2007 Georgia Patriots Day celebration watching her receive her certificate of membership in the DAR. I was especially proud to have furnished some of the genealogical information that qualified her for membership.
As her birthday was on a Sunday, Josie had her celebration on Saturday
Even the Georgia Senate took note of how well she spent her hundred years:
LC 94 0438
Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union gave her a big spread:
At 100, she’s still the boss — and won’t
updated at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009
GA --Josie Braddock Bennett turns 100 Feb. 15, but she insisted her family
celebrate her birthday a day early, her daughter Billie Jones said.
“She said Sunday was the
day to go to church,” Jones said. “She’s always been the boss.”
Her father took a second wife, a woman who lived down the road. Normally, that would have settled things. But it didn’t.
of us like[d] her but Daddy,” Bennett said from a chair in the apartment
where she lives alone. “He must have gone crazy.
”She and her younger sister, Mabel, caught a train to Brunswick and went to work waiting tables at the Oglethorpe Hotel. Mabel, by the way, has the same longevity gene. She’s 98 but living in a nursing home.
The demolition of the Oglethorpe, perhaps the prettiest building in the city’s history, remains a sore point after all these years.
“It was a beautiful building. But that’s the way they do things here, tear down all the good stuff,” Bennett said.
Her sense of humor, refined over a century, kicks in easily.
“You’re afraid to get out at night. They’ll tear your house down before you get back,” she said.
Bennett got married at 17,
but life was still hard because she married a farmer. She had from 200 to
300 chickens, and it seemed like they read the market bulletins.
“When eggs were 25 cents a dozen, they laid pretty good because it wasn’t enough to pay for feed. If the price went up, they quit laying,” she said.
Her six children never
lacked for anything. One year, a teenage Billie was to go to Atlanta for a
public speaking contest and didn’t haven’t anything to wear. Her
mother just went out in the low places and picked deer tongue, a wild
aromatic plant that cigarette manufactures mixed with tobacco. She picked
for days, spread it on the grass to dry and took it all in at night so the
dew wouldn’t wet it. She did this until she had enough to sell to buy
Billie a dress.
The kids usually had their
pick of clothes from the Sears Roebuck catalog
“She’d hand us the
catalogue, tell us to pick out what we wanted and she’d make it,”
All without a pattern, and
they fit and looked just like the pictures, Jones said.
During World War II,
Bennett rode the bus into Brunswick and welded Liberty Ships at the
shipyards. Everyone said she was a good welder, but she apparently caught
the eye of the lead man for a different reason. He kept asking her out to
dinner and she kept refusing, being married and all, but one day she gave
She said, “I’ll go to
dinner with you, but I want to take my husband and my six children.”
She got no more invitations
To help her husband
supplement their income, she built a store in their front yard, ran a
couple of restaurants downtown and grew a garden every year. She produced
so many tomatoes that she and one of the kids picked five 5-gallon buckets
full one day and set out to supply all the neighbors. She grows a garden
now in buckets outside her back door.
Her apartment in town is a
calm place. But out at the old homeplace on what is now Josie B. Road, it
was always a little wild. With her husband dead and her children grown and
gone, she woke up early one morning and saw her belt lying across the
doorway. She bent to pick it up and it slithered away, which most belts
won’t do. She slept a number of nights with that snake in the house,
until she moved a canister on the kitchen counter and there the rascal
was. Luckily, she had a hatchet handy and began chopping.
“It didn’t do the
snake or the counter much good. They said he wouldn’t bite, but I
wouldn’t trust him,” she said.
A lot of people panic at
the sight of a cockroach.
A wall in her little
apartment is devoted to photos of herself with stars from the Republican
firmament of various luster, including her grandson, Glynn County Sheriff
Wayne Bennett. She has pictures of both President Bushes and Gov. Sonny
She plans to be at Emanuel
United Methodist Church today, where her birthday was observed Saturday.
She thinks everyone ought to be in church somewhere on Sunday.
It was in church, after
all, where she picked out a couple of preachers to conduct her funeral, in
case she ever has one.
She’ll have to make other plans now. She has outlived them both.
The Brunswick News ran an article on her when she was ninety-six:
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:10-31
Josie became a member of the DAR April 19, 2007.
Josie blesses every life she touches. She certainly has blessed mine.
J. G. (Jerry) Braddock Sr.