Florida woman celebrates 105th birthday
ANTHONY — Family and friends gathered last week to celebrate the 105th birthday of Gertha Butler, who has cared for children in at least four generations of her family.
Butler, affectionately known as Aunt Gert, was treated to a car caravan led by the Rev. Michael Baker, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Butler’s church for many years.
The caravan passed by her home in Anthony, which was built in the early 1960s by Butler’s late husband, Issac, a building contractor, according to Ovedia Rhoulhac, 63, Butler’s niece, for whom Butler cared as a youngster.
Signs and banners with messages like “Blessed and Favored: Happy Birthday Aunt Gert” and “New Hope Loves You” adorned the front yard on Thursday. Butler sat at a table outside with family members while additional guests wished her well from cars ringed around the area.
"She’s a whole lotta love. She's loved by neighbors and church members," Rhoulhac said.
Butler said faith and attending church have been central "all her life."
Butler was born in Anthony on June 25, 1915, and had seven siblings, according to Rhoulhac, whose mother was one of Butler's sisters.
Gertha and Issac Butler had no biological children, Rhoulhac explained. He died in 1997.
Rhoulhac said her mother worked at a local dry cleaning shop and her father was a block plant manager. Butler cared for her when her parents were away at work.
Butler and her husband were "like a second set of parents for me," Rhoulhac said.
Rhoulhac described Butler as a "homemaker and caregiver" who loved to fish and was an excellent baker, with a carrot cake specialty.
Butler still lives independently with family support. Her great niece (Rhoulhac's daughter, Latanya Piner, 39) said Butler also helped raise her.
"Because my grandmother and grandfather both worked, Aunt Gert kept their children and it just continued," she stated in part in a text message. “Gertha Butler has watched and brought many changes to the Anthony community. She has been a member of New Hope Baptist Church under the current leadership of Rev. Michael Baker and she has served in several positions."
"Gertha is known for singing beautiful hymns and reciting poems and she is currently the oldest member."
Rhoulhac said Gertha Butler “became emotional after the gathering and appreciated the outpouring of love.”
“Gertha is a blessing,” she said.
Cierra Tuggerson, 31, and Tennley Graham, 27, great nieces, both came to wish Butler a happy birthday. Graham said she recalled watching the Wendy Williams Show with Gertha Butler.
Tenya Degraffenveid, a great niece, may have summed the group's sentiments best as she gave Butler a kiss.
"She is mother to us all," Degraffenveid said.
This story originally published to ocala.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.