Great-great Gertie: Austell resident Gertie Gayton turns 100
by Rachel Gray
June 09, 2014 04:00 AM | 2291 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gertie Gayton, right, visits Saturday with her great-great-grandson, Colin Cantrell, 3, while dad, Jamie Cantrell, looks on. Friends and family gathered at Ross Memorial Healthcare in Kennesaw for a reception in honor of Gayton’s milestone. Until seven years ago, Gayton’s granddaughter, Rita Cantrell, 60, of Acworth, had been taking care of both her grandmother and mother, Rachel Bennett Robinson, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Gertie Gayton, right, visits Saturday with her great-great-grandson, Colin Cantrell, 3, while dad, Jamie Cantrell, looks on. Friends and family gathered at Ross Memorial Healthcare in Kennesaw for a reception in honor of Gayton’s milestone. Until seven years ago, Gayton’s granddaughter, Rita Cantrell, 60, of Acworth, had been taking care of both her grandmother and mother, Rachel Bennett Robinson, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Gertie Gayton, who was born June 8, 1914, just as World War I was beginning, turned 100 on Sunday.

Gayton celebrated Saturday afternoon with a large group of friends and five generations of family at Ross Memorial Healthcare, an assisted living facility in Kennesaw.

While Gayton was dressed up and the life of the party, making jokes and smiling, she claimed the day was not so extraordinary.

“I just think I am normal, like everyone else,” Gayton said, adding it was only her 72nd, 82nd or 92nd birthday at the most.

Gayton was the oldest of seven siblings, with one baby sister and five brothers.

Their father was a farmer during the Great Depression, growing cotton and watermelon, the latter being the more lucrative, a family member said.

“That was the money crop,” said Gayton’s son, Harold Gayton, 84, who, like his mother, has lived his whole life in Acworth.

Harold Gayton said both his grandparents later worked for Unique Knitting Mills in Acworth.

Gertie Gayton only completed grammar school before staying at home to help in the fields.

“I didn’t like it when I had to do it,” she said.

Harold Gayton remembers being told his aunt always tried getting out of farm work by pretending to be sick. But the time his mother fibbed, telling her father she was too sick to work, Harold Gayton said his grandfather told Gertie Gayton she was allowed to go home, but would have to spend the time in the garden.

During World War II, Gertie Gayton worked with mostly women at the Bell Aircraft Corporation in Marietta, installing hydraulic tubing for the B-29 bomber planes, Harold Gayton said.

Later, Gertie Gayton returned to school at a local business college, which led to her 25-year-career doing clerical work.

While growing up in a mostly rural farming community, Gertie Gayton said, “There wasn’t anything to do.”

However, she did go dancing with her future husband, Howard Gayton, whom she married in 1929.

Howard Gayton was a Baptist preacher, and the couple were members of Shady Grove Baptist Church for over 50 years. Howard Gayton died in 1992 and is buried near the church.

The family describes him as handsome and tall, but strict.

“You walked the line,” said Randy Bennet, 56, a grandson who lives in Kingston.

The couple had three children, but their youngest, Billy, died at 18 months old from pneumonia.

“I just got through it,” Gertie Gayton said.

At the party Saturday, the family said Gertie Gayton has always been tenacious.

Harold Gayton remembers when he was 15 years old and took his mother for a ride around their house on his motorcycle. But only that one time around.

Gertie Gayton and her husband would venture to hot springs in Arkansas to dip in the mineral baths. Later in life, she traveled with friends on “leisure time trips” to Branson, Mo.

At the gathering Saturday afternoon, Harold Gayton was choked up to see all the guests who came to celebrate.

“I am at a loss for words really,” he said. “The family has always been close, and that is the way it ought to be.”

Every family member has a favorite dish of Gertie Gayton’s cooking, including chicken dumplings, biscuits, salmon patties and chocolate cake.

Gertie Gayton has three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Jack Cantrell, 10, was one of the great-great-grandsons at the celebration on Saturday.

“I think it is pretty great,” he said about Gertie Gayton’s turning 100 years old.

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