A tribute to two pillars of Belmont community

One hundred and three years — it’s hard to even imagine leading a life that long.

The village of Belmont lost its oldest resident last week, when Anne Davis died on Thursday.

Mrs. Davis was my neighbor for several years. Her home, which was always well maintained with a neatly manicured lawn and a vegetable garden in the back, stands below the property where my husband, Mike, and I started our married lives together.

I never knew Mrs. Davis well, but I always knew she was there and that she was a highly respected member of the community. She also was a concerned and caring neighbor. It was common when anything seemed out of place for her to call me and check in.

I specifically remember a warm summer evening when all of Mrs. Davis’ lights were out and I assumed she had gone to bed. Mike and I were grilling some food on the front porch and had lit a citronella torch to help keep insects away. Not long after that flame started to burn, my phone rang. It was Mrs. Davis calling to make sure that we and our home were all right, since she could see from her window that something out in front of our place was on fire.

Can you imagine all of the things she must have seen and experienced in her 103 years in this world?

According to her obituary, she was born Oct. 23, 1917, in Fairpoint. COVID-19 was not the first pandemic that transpired during her lifetime. She would have been an infant when the Spanish flu struck the globe in 1918 in the midst of World War I.

She lived through the Great Depression and was a World War II bride. Her husband, Francis Paul Davis, died in 1961, leaving her to navigate life as a widow for the next 60 years.

Along the way, she was known as a hardworking, dedicated mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, as well as a beloved aunt. Her obituary states that she was a devoted voter, “never missing an election.” It also states that she survived COVID-19.

Mrs. Davis died at Emerald Point Health & Rehab in Barnesville, where she had been living for a few years while her descendants continued to maintain her home. I remember her son, Kenny, telling me that early in the pandemic his mother had a craving for some candy. When he delivered it to the door, the staff refused to accept it, since no visitors or outside deliveries were allowed. The facility was taking steps to protect its residents from the coronavirus.

Kenny later snuck the candy up to the window of his mother’s room at the facility, because he so wanted her to have whatever she wanted. He got caught, and I’m not sure she ever did get that particular candy, though I do know visitors were permitted later in the pandemic.

Over the course of 103 years, she must have experienced thousands of little stories like that which were unique to her own long life.

For example, she was given the honor of flipping the switch to light Belmont’s first-ever community Christmas tree. Both she and the mayor who launched that initiative, Stan Sobel, have now passed on.

Mrs. Davis’ family has my deepest sympathy as they go through this difficult time. And I hope that reflecting on the amazing century that made up her lifetime — from horse-drawn transportation to automobiles and airplanes, and from coal- and wood-fired stoves to natural gas heat, electric lights and eventually the internet — will help them to appreciate all the time she had here on this Earth.

∫ ∫ ∫

Another Belmont resident who has had the honor of lighting the holiday tree celebrated a major milestone this month.

Janie Bartlett, best known as the kind, smiling and singing first grade teacher of hundreds of students who passed through Belmont school, turned 90 on Sept. 8.

Mrs. Bartlett was my first grade teacher, but there has always been something else special about her for me. She was born on the very same day as my mother, the late Grace Compston — Sept. 8, 1931. When I was a child, they were colleagues and friends, and they always exchanged birthday cards in their own private tradition.

Mom was born in Jackson, Ohio, and did not move to this area until the 1960s. Mrs. Bartlett, though, was born here as Janie Gordon, and she attended and graduated from Belmont School when it still educated children in first through 12th grades.

I believe being a teacher must have been Mrs. Bartlett’s true calling, as I never met a student who didn’t absolutely love her.

To me, she’s always been glamorous, with tan skin and vivid makeup — quite a contrast to my mom, who only wore pinkish lipstick in my childhood and maybe a touch of blush.

Mrs. Bartlett nurtured my desire to read and write, and she played piano and used music to motivate and inspire her students. She taught us many catchy tunes and patriotic songs and found creative ways to communicate her lessons.

Still to this day, I feel like a youngster when I bump into Mrs. Bartlett. She always has a big smile to share and greets me by calling me Jenny, as most people did until I became an adult.

Her daughter, Mary Ann Lucas of Belmont, organized a card shower for her mother’s special birthday. I am ashamed to say that I did not remember to send a card in time, but I saw on social media that the response was very strong and that Mrs. Bartlett appreciated and enjoyed each and every card she received.

So, this bit of my column is intended as my card for Mrs. Bartlett. Happy belated birthday to a wonderful lady!


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