Cynthia Wakefield calls her grandmother, Beatrice Gallman, a “walking miracle,” and it's hard to argue with that description.
Gallman, who celebrated her 102nd birthday on April 8, lives alone in a small Aiken apartment and gets around without a cane or any other type of support. She also still cooks and likes to start her day by fixing grits and sausage for breakfast.
“I usually make enough grits for two mornings,” Gallman said. “I cut the sausage into little pieces, put them in the grits and let it all simmer. Then I put what I want on my plate and put the rest in the refrigerator. The next morning, I put a little water in the grits, turn the stove on and I've got my meal.”
Every Thursday, Gallman works for several hours at Aiken Surgical Associates as a cleaner.
“I scrub three bathrooms, and there is a little kitchen that I scrub, too,” Gallman said. “They don't want me to retire, so as long I can walk around and do my work, I'm going to stay there. If I retired, I don't believe I would live much longer because I've been used to working for so long.”
As a child, Gallman lived in the community of Talatha, which is south of Aiken, and she didn't have a lot of time for fun and games.
“When I was 12 years old, my mother hired me out to take care of a little white boy,” she said. “She would get me up in the morning and dress me, and then I would walk a mile to the family's house. When I got there, the lady would put the baby in a cart, and I would sit there and play with him while she made breakfast. She and her husband, who was a mailman, would eat, and then she would make me a plate. I would stay there until 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.”
Gallman, who has more leisure time now, enjoys watching “Judge Judy” and “The Price is Right” on television. She's also a fan of Atlanta Braves baseball and a member of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
“My church is near Petticoat Junction, and they've got a bus to pick people up and carry them down there on Sunday,” she said. “I ride that bus, so I get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to eat my breakfast, get my bed made and get myself together. I don't want them to be waiting on me; I want to be waiting on them.”
Gallman has outlived two husbands, three sisters, two half-sisters and three brothers. Her only child, Lizzie Wakefield, is 83.
“The Lord sure has been good to me,” Gallman said. “I think the reason why he's let me stay around so long is that I've always been nice to people, and tried to help them as much as I could.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard.