Our church member Syble Elliott turned 99 the other day. She is one year away from joining an extremely elite club. Only about one in every 5,000 people in the U.S. reach the century mark.
What’s the secret? Genetics plays a major part, but these people manage stress, eat right (keeping meat consumption to a minimum), don’t smoke, and exercise regularly (https://www.bu.edu/articles/2022/why-do-people-live-to-100-and-how/).
Syble’s secret? “The grace of God! You’re blessed with some things and you don’t know why. You just say, ‘Thank you, Lord!’”
When asked how to describe Syble, several people immediately stated, “She’s amazing!”
Other words surfaced as people talked about Syble’s quiet but steady impact: inspiring, dedicated, resilient, faithful, humble, thoughtful, admired, beautiful.
Syble grew up in Winder, Georgia, the oldest of two children. Her father owned a small mom-and-pop grocery. Syble lost her mother when she was eight years old, so suddenly she found herself stepping up to help with her four-year-old brother and assist her father around the store.
When she got tall enough to reach the gas cap on the customers’ hood, she pumped gas.
After high school, she worked for the telephone company, running the switchboard. Glenn Clark moved to town with the CAA, now the FAA. They met, began dating and married November 1, 1942. Glenn enlisted in the Marine Corps and ended up in Oceanside, CA. The military wives decided to join them, so they all piled in Syble’s Plymouth and drove across the country to surprise their husbands.
Syble and Glenn had two weeks together before his division shipped out to Japan. Syble interviewed with the telephone company there and went to work that day.
Glenn returned home and they began their post-war life, finally settling in Southwest Atlanta. They had two boys, Jerry and Ron, and nearly 41 years together before Glenn died.
Syble pressed on and fifteen years later, married Bob Elliott. Bob asked God to give them ten years together. They had twelve before Bob died.
Bob’s daughter Claris McDonald and Syble bonded and still talk every night.
“I thought she was the loveliest lady I ever met other than my mother. She’s such a woman of faith and so humble about it. I told my dad he was so fortunate because he found two wonderful women in the same lifetime. She’s a wonderful gift to me.”
Syble’s been a wonderful gift to our church family, also. She inspires because she’s so positive.
“Every morning I wake up and thank the Lord that He allowed me to see another day, to see the beauty of the world. Whether it’s rainy or icy, it’s God’s beauty,” Syble shared.
She inspires because of her approach to life.
“She lost her mother early on, lost two husbands, buried a son, overcame cancer, survived a hospital stay of two weeks — she’s such a fighter. She does what she needs to do and is so resilient,” said Claris.
“I’ve learned from her, it’s not what comes in life, but how you deal with it.”
Syble inspires because she stays active.
“In my mind, I don’t feel like I’m 99,” Syble said, but her body reminds her she can’t do what she used to. Until last year, she still drove herself anywhere, and still mowed her lawn. She loves to work in her lovely yard. Every morning, she tackles her recumbent bike and other exercises.
Until recently, she golfed and bowled on a regular basis. Each week she meets with three other ladies to play canasta. You have to stay active, she believes, so get up out of that chair and move!
Margaret Rogers, longtime children’s ministry director at our church, now retired, worked with Syble for years. She said, “Syble is an inspiration to all of us and a joy to be with. She always brings out the best in others.
“Her love for the children and parents and her dedication to serving the Lord were outstanding. I could always count on her. She helped anyway she could.”
Her son, Jerry Clark, said about his mother, “I’ve never known her to have a selfish moment, in thought or deed, even when faced with difficult times. She totally dedicated herself to others.”
“There’s something about her you admire that makes you want to be like her,” continued Margaret. “When I grow up, I want to be like Syble!”
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.mcdonoughroad.org for more info or to view online worship. Visit www.davidchancey.com to see more of Chancey’s writings, including how to order his new book.]