Richmond Times-Dispatch - ( Richmond,VA) - Saturday, November 1, 2014 - “100-year-ole Va. woman solid at checkers”  Newspaper Link - Times Richmond,VA This article is about a 100-year old Virginia lady who has lived a long and interesting life and likes to play checkers. Originally published in the Free Lance-Star and other newspapers like Richmond Times-Dispatch and Washington Post.   

100-year-old Va. woman solid at checkers

Posted: Saturday, November 1, 2014 9:50 am

Associated Press | Richmond Times-Dispatch

MIDLAND, Va. (AP) — Phoebe Patton's blue eyes are focused on a checkerboard, and she's poised to strike.

Moments earlier, she had lost a game to fellow senior Jim Austin at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in southern Fauquier County.

Losing doesn't sit well with Patton, and neither does all the attention she's getting. A camera is aimed at her, and a reporter is taking notes for a story about the activities of this particularly active 100-year-old.

The checker player sets her jaw, determined to get back in the game. Then she sets her trap, much like a spider would ensnare a fly.

When Austin moves into it, she pounces. She jumps three of his men in one turn and earns a king in the process.

"Good one," he declares.

The women around her clap, and the veteran checker player relaxes a little.

"I don't think I'm very good now, but there was a time when I was good," she says, humbly.

Family and fellow church members would say otherwise.

"Few people can beat her," said her daughter, Sally Baffa. "If they do, she will smile and say, 'I'm slipping.'"

There aren't many who have reached the century mark, as Patton did on Sept. 22, who are of such sound mind and body.

At her home, a few miles from Mount Carmel, she walked through her living room and passed an assortment of cards on display.

"I think she got 107 cards for her birthday," Baffa said.

"It was 109," Patton called out from the next room.

She recently told her pastor, Peyton Embrey, that she's celebrated the occasion enough. She attended four parties and dinners in her honor.

At one family gathering, she greeted people for more than 2 hours.

"I say, for 100 years, you ought to be able to celebrate the whole year long," Embrey said.  "Nobody can say anything about it."

Patton describes her health as excellent, except for some problems she has getting around.

She had colon cancer at 86 and had surgery, but chose not to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.

"I said, 'If it's my time to go "' she said, her voice trailing off.

She's fallen a few times — like when she was trimming the crepe myrtle in front of her bedroom window — and broken so many bones and joints that her children insist she use a walker.

"If I didn't, I don't know what my kids would do," she said.

"She knows we don't trust her without the walker," said her daughter Ann Garmon.

Patton joked that sometimes she feels outnumbered by the younger generation.

She was only teasing, but when she smiles, her blue eyes twinkle with mischief, and the lines brought on by a century of living seem to fade away.

In her next breath, she said her six children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren are the main reason she's still going strong.

She also credits God and her beloved church family at Mount Carmel, including Embrey and his wife, Carol.

"He always gives me strength when I go to church," she said about the pastor.

Patton and her late husband, Woodrow, raised four daughters and two sons at Elk Mount Farm near Midland. As her children got older, she started raising baby calves, which she absolutely loved, and continued that through her 90s.

For 10 years, the couple welcomed visitors as part of the Fauquier County Farm Tour. Patton enjoyed having school groups on the place and educating children about farm life.

The Pattons had "70 wonderful years together" on their picturesque 601-acre spread. She hopes she can go out of this world the same way he did in 2009.

"Nothing like home," she said, sitting on a screened-in porch. From there she watches cornstalks grow and sees the old dairy barn, where several hundred cows were milked twice a day for decades.

"I hope I'll be here when my time comes," she continued. "That's what Woodrow requested. He said, 'When I go, I want to be holding your hand.'"

She knows it puts a "big strain on the kids" to keep her in the same place she's lived since she and her husband married in 1939.

Her daughters and a daughter-in-law have a regular rotation. All but one live in Fauquier, and each visits her one morning or afternoon a week. Paid caregivers fill in other slots.

"We figure it takes about 10 people to keep her operational," Baffa said.

Relatives take her to medical appointments and oversee the leasing of the farm and rental properties.

Patton never did like to drive, but she enjoys going places, just as she and her husband used to fly around the Mid-Atlantic region in their Piper Cherokee.

"I'll take her into Warrenton, and she'll want to go to all the thrift stores," said Linda Boughton, one of her caregivers. "When we get home, I'll ask if she's tired, and she says she's not, but I am."

Patton learned how to play checkers as a child. She couldn't beat her father, a dairy farmer, but she regularly bettered her older brother, Jack, who didn't take it well.

He'd flip the board over and stomp off.

"He was a poor loser," she said.

Baffa remembers her mother standing at the stove, making gravy or cooking some other dish, while keeping a checkers game going at the same time with one of her children.

"She'd make a play and go back and stir the gravy, make another play and win every time," Baffa said.

Once, when the Pattons were at the theme park Dollywood in Tennessee, a fellow diner asked if anyone there knew how to play checkers.

Patton said she did, and the two commenced to play.

"I skunked her," Patton said. "She didn't even get a king."

Paul Estes, the assistant pastor at Mount Carmel, has been in the same spot during regular visits to the farm. Once, he brought a dozen of his wife's homemade yeast rolls, hoping the baked goods would distract Patton when it came time to play checkers.

"She still triple-jumped me," Estes said, laughing. Then, in a more serious tone, he added: "I don't know who ministers to whom when I go to visit her. She is a remarkable lady."

Information from: The Free Lance-Star, © 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.