Hampton native celebrates 102nd birthday

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Florence Martin of Hampton said treating others well has been an essential part of her life for more than a century.

“I’ve always tried to do unto others as they do unto me,” she said. “I live as well as I knew how to live, and I don’t want to hurt folks.”

Florence Martin displays the stack of birthday cards she received for her recent 102nd birthday Special photo

Martin celebrated her 102nd birthday Saturday with visits from people whose lives she has touched over the years.

The Hampton native still recalls memories of her humble beginnings. Those memories include working on a farm and plowing a garden with a mule, as well as making the mile-long trek every day from Dorsey Road to the old Liberty Hill School, before it moved and became Hampton Elementary School.

It was on one of those walks to school that Martin’s life would change forever, said her longtime neighbor, Connie Dodgen of Hampton.

“She met her husband walking to school one day,” said Dodgen. “He carried her books. His name was Otis Martin. They got married in 1930.”

Dodgen noted that while Martin can recall many events from the last 102 years, not all of them contain happy memories. One example, said Dodgen, is a tornado that came through Hampton in 1934, damaging the home that Florence and Otis Martin shared.

“They lost everything,” said Dodgen. “It blew their house away.”

The couple also lived through a similar tragedy years later when another tornado hit Hampton on Feb. 25, 1964.

Otis and Florence Martin were married 42 years before his death in 1972. They raised three children: David, who now lives in Hampton; Betty, who resides at Laurel Park; and Peggy, who passed away in 2015.

Dodgen said Florence Martin continues to spin tales from the events of her life over the past century. She added that good health and a fighting spirit have contributed to Martin’s longevity.

“Her brain has so much great information and history in it,” said Dodgen. “Florence has lived through so much, being 102 years old. A few years ago, the doctors told her she had a brain aneurysm and there was nothing they could do but send her home -- too old for surgery. They did not know that Florence just lived on and on and on. She has no medical problems, never took medicine until this medical event about three years ago, and takes one pill now. She still works in the yard, would be cutting grass if she had a lawnmower, and probably driving, too.”

Martin has also been known for her generosity, having hemmed pants and sown clothes for people before her vision worsened. Dodgen added that Martin has held a special place in her family’s lives through the years.

“She is just like a grandmother to me,” said Dodgen. “I love her with all my heart, and I make sure I go by and visit and take my kids with me when I can. She is truly amazing.”

As for Martin herself, she credited her Christian faith with seeing her through the last 102 years.

“God is there taking care of me,” she said. “I thank Him every day when I wake up. I trust in Him to take care of me.”