She Lived Alone as an Adult until she was 118, Passes at 120 Years of Age
By: Clara McLaughlin, The Florida Star, The Georgia Star Newspapers
Pearl Gartrell was born in Tillsdale, Georgia on April 1, 1888 as
one of the youngest of 15 children. She lived in for almost seventy years. She died on Sunday, November 23,
The Baptist lady gave birth to eight children and has outlived all
but one of them. Yet, she refused to move to a facility for the
elderly and until two years ago, proved that she did not need anyone
to live with her. Actually, no one lived with her totally, but her
relatives would alternate their time with her even though her great
granddaughter, Doris King, spent much of her time with her trying to
make sure things went as her great grandmother wanted them to go.
On Tuesday, November 11, Ms. Gartrell became ill and was taken to the
hospital. She was placed in Hospice care on November 13 and died on
November 23, 2003.
Ms. Gartrell did not have a copy of her birth certificate since she
was not born in a hospital. Her birth was recorded in a family
Bible. The Florida State ID card did not show the exact year of her
birth because the computer would not activate the year, 1888.
However, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs acknowledged that she
was perhaps the oldest person living in Florida until the time of her
Ms. Gartrell was very careful about her food and did not like to eat
in restaurants because she could not be guaranteed that the workers
washed their hands.
The lady did have one habit that she would not give up - her can of
sweet snuff that she kept inside of her bottom lip. At 120 years of
age, she still had most of her own teeth.
Ms. Gartrell was not a person with sickness but she did have some
bouts of illness. In fact, the doctors thought she would surely die
in 1991 when she contracted pneumonia at the age of 103 and refused to
be hospitalized. She did not like to take medication so when such was
prescribed, she would hide it under her mattress. Family members
learned to watch her closely when medicine was prescribed for her, to
make sure she followed orders.
Ms. Gartrell broke her hip and cracked her pelvis in 1998. Once her
surgery was completed and the pin in her hip had been installed, she
insisted upon going home, and she did. Within months, she was walking
Pearl Gartrell raised her great granddaughter, Lolitha Hill and some
of the other relatives. When she talked about her younger days, she
talked of her mother, who was a midwife, and worked for the town's
white doctor, of their deep-cooking fireplace and the time her mother
covered the faces of all of the children with black soot and had them
to hide in the back of the fireplace when the KKK came. She also told
of the one-room school house that was attached to the Baptist church
in , near .
Pearl Gartrell married at the age of 14 but says she cannot remember
her husband's name. This memory loss may stem from the fact that her
father, brother and husband were killed in her small Georgia town.
What she also remembers of her younger days was when she was forced
to be submissive and gave birth to two children by a white man in that
town. But, she did not harbor hate, even though she was still very
shy when it came to white people.
Ms. Gartrell was filled with wisdom and love. She kept strong
belief in God and even though she had cataracts, she always wanted the
paper, and always wanted The Florida Star, from its first days.
Pearl Gartrell not only raised her children, she helped with the
others that came along and remained a God fearing woman. Of her eight
children, one died at birth, three died of heart attacks, two had
cancer, one son was murdered and found in the St. Johns River and Tom
Gartrell still lives in Jacksonville in a nursing facility.
Mrs. King and Mrs. Hill said their great grandmother was the
foundation of their family, all the days of her life, and they are
eternally grateful. She will truly be missed.
Funeral arrangements for Ms. Gartrell has been handled by Sarah
Carter Funeral Home and services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday,
November 29 at The Worship Place located at 2627 Spring Glen Road,
Contact: Clara McLaughlin, , P. O. Box 40629,