Hard work, faith, family make for happiness at 100

By Lisa Burnett Published January 12, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Laodice Stevens just turned 100 years old. She has lived in White County most of her life and said a strong faith is the key to longevity.

At the end of December, Laodice Stevens of Searcy turned 100 years old. Though her memory and eyesight aren’t as good as they once were, she is in relatively good health.

How does someone make the most of life and make it to 100 years old?

“Just trust in the Lord and keep in good health,” Stevens said.

She was born in 1913 in Rose Bud and hasn’t gone far from White County since then, she said.

“I reckon I just liked it here,” she said.

Though she grew up in the area, she and her family lived in Memphis for a few years.

Her daughter, Ladotta Barlow, said her mother worked in a doughnut shop in Memphis while her family lived there, but besides that, Stevens devoted her life to being a housewife.

Like other children during that period, Stevens had to put education on the back burner in order to help her family. She didn’t graduate from high school — Stevens only made it to the ninth grade.

“My dad passed away, and I needed to help at home,” Stevens said.

Stevens helped her mother and siblings with the family’s cotton farm, where she saw her mother’s work ethic, which still inspires her today.

“She farmed as long as she was able,” Stevens said.

Her mother, Sally, has remained an influence throughout her life.

“She was a Christian person, and she really lived it,” Stevens said.

Barlow said her grandmother has been another inspiration throughout her life as well.

“She had cancer, but she kept singing throughout her sickness,” Barlow said. “She even sang on the day that she died.”

After her father died when she was 16, Stevens didn’t know that would be something she and her future husband, Rufus, would have in common.

“He came to Rose Bud when his dad died, when he was 16,” Stevens’ daughter said. “He had to work for different people in the community.”

The two met at Newark Church, and married in 1933 when Stevens was 20 years old. Barlow said her mother started going to Newark Church at the age of 7.

“She went to church there for the rest of her life until she went to the nursing home,” Barlow said.

Stevens has been a resident of The Crossing at Riverside in Searcy for four years.

Faith has played a huge role in Stevens’ life, and she said it was a big part of why her marriage was a success.

“I was married for 62 years,” Stevens said.

At 100, her eyesight isn’t as good as it once was, and she can’t do some of the things she wishes she could.

“She can’t even read her Bible anymore,” Barlow said. “I got her a giant-sized-print Bible, and I thought she would always be able to read it.”

Though Stevens can’t read her Bible, that doesn’t keep her from going to church.

“Oh yeah, I go to church,” Stevens said.

Barlow said the nursing home her mother lives in has a service every Sunday for the residents.

“She goes to church unless she’s sick or she forgets. I try to call her and remind her,” Barlow said. “It’s an uplifting time.”

When someone asks Stevens about her husband of more than half a century, she lights up like a high school girl.

“He was a good one,” she said.

Rufus died on Aug. 19, 1995. Stevens does have some advice for anyone embarking on the new journey of starting a life with someone.

“Be kind to each other, and I think it helps for you to live a Christian life,” Stevens said.

She was a devoted housewife, and her husband was a farmer and a plumber to support their children.

After four years of marriage, Stevens gave birth to their first child, Barlow. Two other children came after her only daughter, and the family is now a five-generation family.

Stevens has three children, 14 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

“I’m proud of my family, and I have a good family,” she said. “I expect that’s what has kept me around for so long.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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