No signs of slowing down
Lottie Sullivan will turn 106 years old her next birthday, March 8, and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. Born in the small Texas town of Denson Springs in 1909, she was the 13th of 15 children born to Thomas Franklin Lee Hassell and Henrietta Martha Ann Ferguson. It was a close-knit community where families went to church on Sunday and as many as 20 additional people would gather at the Hassell home for a dinner cooked by her mother and older sisters. The family moved to Beulah when Lottie was in the 2nd grade. They were the only family to have a vehicle, a 1912 Overland, which her daddy bought instead of a Ford because all the kids could fit in it. But he wouldn’t drive it; he had someone else do the driving.
With 15 children in the family, tricks were always being played on somebody. Lottie recalls her brother, Mart, teaching her to sing this verse: “At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolls away. It was there by faith I received my Sunday pants, and now I have to wear them every day.” The next time they sang the song in church, Lottie was sitting by her mother and sang it really loudly, proud that she knew all the words. “I sang it just the way Mart taught me. Needless to say, Mother was really embarrassed and let Mart know he was never to teach me anything like that again…especially with a church song.” Lottie’s father raised cattle and sold the beef to two of the neighboring sawmill towns. She and her brothers would go out and play “rodeo,” riding the steers and getting bucked off, but when it was time for the beef to be skinned out, the meat had big bruises all in it. When Mr. Hassell discovered it was the result of his children’s play, he was really upset. As Lottie got old enough to date, it just so happened all her boyfriends lived in Rusk, and to get to Rusk from Beulah, you had to go around this big mountain. “While I was getting dressed for my date, Will would come in and sing ‘He’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when he comes.’ It sure made me mad!” Then there was brother Roy who always bossed everybody. “When my date and I found a seat in the movies, we’d look around and Roy would always be sitting behind me. When he got older and married, I’m sure that’s why God gave him all boys.” Even after all the shenanigans the Hassell kids played on each other, “It’s a wonderful thought to know that we all turned out to be good people.”
Lottie played basketball in high school and was good at it. She still has the pair of Keds that were her game shoes. At the age of 19, Lottie married Adam Sullivan. He started out as a teacher, but soon realized he couldn’t make enough money to support his family and enlisted in the Army. He went in as a Private E-1, worked his way up through the ranks, served in World War II and Korea and retired in 1954 as a Colonel. During that time, he and Lottie had four children—Kathy, Eileen, Billie and John. A favorite pastime for Adam and Lottie was fishing which they did every chance they got. According to Lottie, “I had the best husband. Whatever I cooked, he’d eat it. He was such a nice fella and he always tried to help everybody.” Adam passed away in 1979.
When Lottie turned 95, she fell while running up some steps with a bag of groceries in her arms. As a result, she broke several bones and had to have 19 staples in her head. She was living with daughter, Eileen, at the time who was also caring for her husband that had prostate cancer. The youngest of Lottie’s children, John, came to the rescue. He quit is job in Austin and moved in to help with his mother’s care. A few years later, the decision was made to move to Carthage to be close to Eileen’s son and wife, Jim and Brenda Milstead. Lottie says, “We like it here. It’s a nice, friendly community. There are some elderly ladies that come to visit occasionally and I enjoy that.”
John says even at 105 years of age, Lottie is still very independent. “I say I’m here taking care of her, but she does most of it herself. When she turned 95, I took her to Montana with me and while we were there she learned to ride a 4-wheeler. She rode it by herself with no help from me and she loved it.” John also inherited his parents’ love for fishing and goes to Murvaul frequently. “One of the last times she went fishing with me, she caught an 8lb. 7 oz. bass.”
A typical day for Lottie begins with a cup of coffee, an egg or a Pop Tart and a couple of cookies. She loves Pecan Sandies and goes through a bag of them every day or two. Every Monday for lunch, she, John and neighbor Ruth Shull go to the Citgo station in Riderville and have the special—a chicken fried steak dinner. At 5:30 every afternoon, daughter Eileen comes over and they watch Wheel of Fortune together. They never miss. Friday is beauty-shop day. At 9:30am sharp, she goes to Nan Powell and has her hair done. She finishes off each day with a bowl of Kellogg’s Mini Wheat cereal before going to bed.
On March 14, Lottie will celebrate her 106th birthday with family and friends at Milano’s Pizza. The festivities begin at 2:00pm. Stop by and wish her well. She’s getting really good at blowing out candles!