03/19/04 — Happy 103rd, Miss Irene

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Happy 103rd, Miss Irene

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 19, 2004 2:02 PM

Irene Askew turned 103 years old today and plans to attend her birthday party Saturday at her house at Rosewood.

"When I was 100, they had the party at the church house," she said. She is the oldest member of the Pine Forest Methodist Church at Rosewood. "There were more than 200 people there."

She stays at Britthaven of Goldsboro, where she's been for the past eight years. "It's not like home," she says, "but it's OK."

Irene Askew

Irene Askew, who turns 103 today, is shown seated with her niece, Leuria Settlemyer of Grantham.

Her nurse, Laurie Ray, told her the other day about her birthday coming up.

"Oh, after the first 100, it doesn't matter," said Miss Irene, who is popular with the staff at Britthaven.

"She's alert and oriented as you and I," said Ms. Ray, who has been her nurse for three years. "She goes to the activities and the beauty shop. Her family takes her out for meals."

"She's sharp as a tack as far as I'm concerned," says Scott Badstein, the nurse at the front desk. "Miss Irene will let you know what she thinks, but in a sweet way. She knows everybody here. I know some 70-year-olds who don't have their mind that good."

She crochets things like dish cloths and lap blankets, "just do enough to keep my hands from getting stiff," she says. "The Methodist Men had an auction sale the other day, and I gave them two to sell. I've made a lot of afghans, but not now."

Her niece, Leuria Settlemyer, is one of the many family members who visit Miss Irene.

Miss Irene is the daughter of George R. Best and Addie Blackmon Best. They had had eight children they raised in the Grantham community.

Miss Irene has outlived all of her brothers and sisters. She has three living children and two deceased.

"I helped out on the farm," she said. Her husband, Alvin, died in 1967. "I lived on the farm all my life -- till I came here.

"It's a good life if you know what to do," says Miss Irene, who would start the day at 2 a.m., take the tobacco out of the barn and put it in the pack house. When everybody else went to work in the pack house, she would go back to the house and cook breakfast.

Breakfast consisted of homemade biscuits, country ham and eggs. They always had syrup and honey on the table.

Then she'd go to work in the pack house at 7 a.m. She would work in the tobacco field until about 10 a.m., and then she would find some watermelon for a snack. "We had a garden, and we always had a plenty of stuff in the garden to eat."