Turning 100 years young is something to celebrate. On May 18, friends and family gathered to honor Evelyn Phillips “Ebbie” Elliott at a birthday luncheon at the Colonnade Restaurant in Atlanta. The centenarian shared some thoughts and experiences about her life.
Elliott was born to Pierce Owens Phillips and Joel Phillips in the small town of Kelleytown, located in Henry County, seven miles east of McDonough. She was the eleventh of 12 children.
The secret to her long life was country living with a strong, supportive family, she said.
She ate healthy foods mostly grown and raised on the family’s land like fruits, vegetables, cows, chickens and hogs.
“I was very fortunate not to get any of the serious childhood diseases that many people got back then — mumps, measles, smallpox. I was always very optimistic and think my mental health can be attributed to my long life,” said Elliott, a double cancer survivor (colon in 1994 and ovarian in 2006) and double heart attack survivor.
Elliott remains active and self-sufficient. “I still cook, do laundry and clean, and I love to entertain, mostly just family now. I drove myself to the store and to get my hair done until I was 93, but decided to stop, because I was worried about hurting someone since my eyesight isn’t as good as it once was,” said Elliott, who also enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and family trips, shopping and sewing. As a child, she enjoyed basketball, hiking and playing in the woods, swimming and wagon rides with her father.
Elliott faced challenges in her life that made her a strong woman. The family home burned when she was eight years old. Cancer took the life of her mother when she was nine years old. Six years later, her brother, Edward at age 28, died of diabetes, followed by her father’s death from cancer only 12 days after her brother.
After her father’s death, Elliott’s 24-year-old sister and school teacher, Frances Elizabeth “Beck,” moved home to raise the four youngest children, Homer, Hugh, Elliott and Carolyn “Cat.” After Elliott and Cat graduated from high school, Beck moved the girls to Atlanta to join Hugh and Homer “in order to keep the family together.”
One of the important life lessons Elliott learned is to be patient with people and be kind. “I learned this from my older people, mainly from Aunt Beck, who modeled such behavior and taught it to us. I want my children and grandchildren to be patient with people and to be kind. That’s the most important thing,” Elliott said.
Elliott met her husband, John Joseph “Joe” Elliott, now deceased, at her cousin’s prom party. “He was standing over with some of his friends listening to us talk. He went to church the next day where he saw and asked my cousin, John Zack Phillips, how old I was and if I was dating,” Elliott said.
“I don’t know what (my cousin) told him, but the next Saturday night, (Joe) came to my front door. We didn’t have a phone. And of course, I asked him in, and we talked. He wanted to know how old I was, and, of course, I wanted to know how old he was. And he just asked if I had plans for the next Saturday night. And I said, ‘no,’ and he made a date right then,” she said.
The Elliotts were married 60 years. Elliott, a homemaker, along with her sister, Cat, managed their husbands’ building and development company, Elliott and Johnson Contractors, from home. She and Cat remain close friends, visiting daily by phone.
The Elliotts were blessed with three children: Jane C. Elliott of Columbia, S.C.; John J. Elliott, Jr. (Trish) of Marietta and Joanne Stewart (Buz), of Kennesaw, along with eight grandchildren and12 great-grandchildren.
The couple lived in the Atlanta area in homes that Joe built. In 1998, they moved from Lilburn to Cobb County into a home built for them by their son, John Elliott, in order to be closer to family. “I have been here ever since,” Elliott said.