John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
Times were much different one century ago. 1919 was the year prohibition began. The Green Bay Packers formed as an independent football team and Felix the Cat made his first screen appearance. But on July 4, as the United States of America turned 143 years old, Odell Jones Raiford was born in the Hamburg community, in the northwestern portion of Madison County.
Born the daughter of Bill and Ella Jones, Raiford grew up alongside her siblings: Eula, Glammy and Lonnie. Upon finishing school on the old country Hamburg school, she immediately went to work. Around the age of 16, Raiford spent time in the fields of Fraleigh Farms with her mother and aunt, where cotton and tobacco was harvested. She later married Ben Raiford, a logger, in 1942.
Throughout her years, though she had no children of her own, Raiford was a mother-figure for her 20 nieces and nephews, especially those in the neighborhood to whom she gave nicknames such as "pokey pine, "black apple," "fat pig" and "blue." Not only was she known as the Mother Goose to many, she was the number one person in Madison County to clean raccoon and soft-shell turtles for consumption, according to her niece Satori Wright, who said, "She done that all her life; since I was a little girl." But as Raiford says, "Go down to the dining room," if you want something good to eat."
Raiford was admitted to Madison Health and Rehabilitation, in Madison, in December of 2009. Daily, she gets up to go to restorative therapy and calls it "work." While activities director Sharon Dawkins believes staying motivated keeps her going, Raiford knows her long life is due to the Lord. "The Lord up above, it had to be Him," said Raiford. "I'm good to everybody. I don't never go to work and think I'm better than everyone."
On Thursday, July 4, Raiford celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by her family, friends and other employees of Madison Health and Rehabilitation.
"I am very grateful and honored to be her niece," said Satori Wright, whose nickname was "Muff." "She showed me true love. I'm so thankful to God for allowing me and my kids to be a part of her journey. I couldn't have asked for a better aunt then Odell Raiford."
"Thank you for helping me raise my three boys as if they were yours," said niece Hilma Jackson. "I am grateful for all you have done for me and my kids."
"Mrs. Raiford is like the Fourth of July fireworks – a firecracker that has a smile that can brighten up anyone's day," said Dawkins. "It is a pleasure to have her to attend my activity programs on such a special day. Happy 100th Birthday!"