The key to a long life is relatively simple -- follow the Golden Rule!
And if anyone can share that advice, it is Almeeter Phillips, who turns 98 today (March 22)!
Her secret to long life? “I do to others as I would have them do to me and I try to love everybody,” she said
Of course, in addition to loving others, Almeeter also has a simple love of life that has not been dampened by arthritis and the ills of aging. Her infectious laughter can be heard ringing throughout her Edwards Street home and brings a smile to all who hear it.
Almeeter, born March 22, 1919, to Mordeci and Lizzie Williams Ellis, was one of 16 children. Her father Mordeci was a child of slaves, and her mother was half Indian and half Caucasian.
A native of Bulloch County, she yo-yoed between Candler and Bulloch throughout her childhood.
“I was born in Register, then we moved to Pulaski and then back to Register and then to Metter,” she said.
Despite the death of her mother when Almeeter was only 9, she was always one to look at the bright side of life, and she recalls a lot of happy times growing up in Candler County.
“Candler County was all right,” she recalled. “Everybody got along good. There was not the meanness there is now; everybody just got along.”
She remembers a worry-free childhood “playing and stuff, jumping rope” and, of course, doing her share of chores and work on the farm. “But we don’t like to talk about that,” she laughed.
Almeeter attended school at St. Matthews in Candler County and at St. Paul and New Hope while living in Register.
“I would go to school, play, help around the house,” she said. “I would help Mama in the kitchen while the others were in the field.”
Having 15 siblings meant sleeping arrangements had to be made and, of course, Almeeter had a niece who grew up in her home as well. She and the niece got to share one room, while the older nine daughters shared rooms with each other.
Almeeter married James Artis Phillips in the winter of 1938 in Metter. Almeeter no longer remembers the actual wedding date, but, she laughs, “I have the certificate to prove we were married!”
The couple had six children -- five boys, Marion, Leo Curtis ‘LC,’ Tommy Joe, Theartis and Melvin and one girl, Mary Jean. While raising a family of her own, Almeeter also served other families, helping with ironing and cleaning to supplement her family income.
Among the families she worked for were May and V.H. Hooks, Mildred Bland, Nancy Norton, Tom and Ruth Reardon, Floyd and Eloise Beasley and Elmer and Carolyn Collins.
While working for others, Almeeter was also busy taking care of her own family and “raised” dozens of children herself. Her kitchen was always open and she is known far and wide as a great cook.
In fact, while growing up, her boys always had their own requests from Mama’s kitchen: Fried chicken, tea cakes, beef stew, fried squash and fried okra.
As if working and caring for her family were not enough, Almeeter was also a talented pianist and served the community by playing piano for several churches in Metter. She is the oldest member of Thankful Baptist Church, which she joined over 60 years ago.
One of Almeeter’s favorite hobbies is fishing -- good old-fashioned worm fishing. Ironically, when asked if she enjoys a good old-fashioned fish fry after a successful day of fishing, she is quick to say no. “I don’t like to eat them,” she said. “I like saltwater fish some, but not what you find around here. I catch them and give them away!”
Fishing isn’t the only thing that keeps her busy. Almeeter still washes clothes and likes to “straighten up” the living room, as she calls it.
Family keeps her busy as well. Almeeter has several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and on down the line. “I’ve got a lot of them,” she said. In fact, her family reports that there are 13 children, 24 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
And then there are the “other” children who have become part of Almeeter’s family, including Drs. Hezekiah and Evelyn Campbell, who call her Mamo.
After spending time with Almeeter, it is easy to see why so many love her. And at the young age of 98, it is also easy to see that Almeeter Phillips is still full of life -- and love!