SARASOTA – The woman known as Mother Roberts has accomplished what most of us are aiming at; she's lived a long, productive life, and as she nears her 101st birthday, she is surrounded by friends and family and a whole community who sings her praises.
The whole community came together to celebrate Iatrice Roberts’ 100th birthday last August. She was born in Marion County, Florida. "I was born in a little log house. It wasn't a house like this, it was a log house."
She was the youngest of 14 children. "I wanted to be a nurse, but my father wasn't able to send me to college, so I couldn't. So I finished up in school….I went to 12th grade."
And then she went to work in the fields. "It was hoeing, picking beans…the same thing you're eating, I picked them, we growed them…sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, everything you're eating we growed on the farm."
Her life still centers around the church, as it always has. “I was raised up in church. My grandfather was a pastor of this church."
She is now surrounded by family and friends. Her husband, who she met in school, is gone. But her only child, her daughter, is with her. She lives with her niece Ruthie. "She's my mom, she's my sister, she's my best friend," says Ruthie.
Ruthie says a lack of a college degree didn't stop Mother Roberts from nursing. "She was anyway. She didn't have papers, but she was. It never got too late or too early for her to go to see about the sick, and do whatever she could for the sick."
Hitting 100 is not unusual in this family. Mother Roberts’ uncle reached 112, and a sister died at 107. What's their secret? "The good eating, from out of the ground. We ate from the ground, we growed everything that we ever ate. Once a year they would have a hog killing; that was the meat," says Ruthie.
And what can we learn from Mother Roberts? "How to love…the main thing is love."
And stay active. "She's 100, almost 101 years old, but she gets out there on the floor and she dances. She just has a great time when she comes to church, and she's very responsive. And every now and then, if I walk past her, she will grab out, reach out and grab my hand, and say ‘pastor, preach it’," says Pastor Vincent Smith.
And he says she exemplifies what he is preaching about. "In church, we talk about grace and mercy and goodness; when you think of all that, you can see that in her."