At 93, retired educator now a professional volunteer who runs farm, raises goats and sews puppets
FOREST, Miss. (WLBT) - Whoever said getting older meant slowing down certainly hasn’t met 93-year-old Judith Gatewood.
In a small town with a population of less than 10,000, the retired home economics teacher is involved in various activities that mirror many of her classroom lessons dozens of years ago.
“One of the biggest thrills is when I go Downtown, and they say, ‘Ohhhh, Ms. Gatewood. I love you. You taught me so many years ago,’” and I’m thinking to myself - you look different, do I remember you?” Gatewood said with an innocent, infectious laugh.
The 93-year-old volunteers at a crisis center for young, expectant mothers, makes sock monkeys for kids, big and small, and raises pygmy goats. She does all this while managing Gatewood Blueberries, a family farm of four generations from her late husband.
“I love it,” Judith smiled.
Gatewood was born in Oakland, a small community in North Mississippi and the second of three children. She also grew up on a farm and graduated from Oakland High School later earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in home economics.
Two days a week, you’ll find Gatewood at Center of Hope, a resource center that offers emotional support and information for young girls who discover they’re pregnant.
“I just do little things, and all the paid people do the big stuff,” Gatewood laughed. “It’s worthwhile, though, and I enjoy it.”
She also juggles time between an education sorority, her church or making colorful sock monkeys for others.
Each morning is spent feeding and caring for goats on her family farm.
“I walk down the driveway, and if I’m kinda slow getting to them - they’re already walking up the fence coming,” she said. “I take bread and break it into pieces, and I have a bowl. I pat the side of my bowl, and they gather round. We have chickens that come up to eat with the goats, and I talk to them. If you wanna make animals love, you just feed them,” Judith said cheerfully.
And in a couple of months, it will be harvest time for Gatewood Blueberries, one of Judith’s favorite times of the year.
“You just walk down the row and look in the bush, and when you see a black one, you just pick it. You can look at it and tell when it’s plump, dark, and juicy. I don’t do much cooking anymore, but you can make all kinds of things - blueberry creme pie, blueberry ambrosia, blueberry cheesecake, blueberry jam, all sorts of things.”
And depending on the volume of this year’s harvest, Gatewood may be able to hire youth in the community to help her and her son Thomas pick blueberries to sell.
But her favorite thing to do with blueberries is to add them to her cereal - which she does daily.
“I’m short, and I have a tendency to be f-a-t. Do you know what that means?” Judith asked me. “Oh, yes, ma’am,” I grinned. “That means I have to keep all the sugar to a minimum,” Gatewood explained.
And two days a week, Judith Gatewood participates in an exercise program called Body Recall, which she says her friends sometimes call Fabulous Fitness.
Despite giving her time and energy back to Forest, she still makes time to maintain her youthful appearance with a standing, weekly salon visit.
“I’m excited every day, and life is wonderful. One of these days, I may not be able to say that, but I can right now,’” Judith laughed.
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