Helen Love: 103 and counting

Helen Love, featured

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

SOUTH PASADENA – Helen Love celebrated her 103rd birthday with friends and family Friday, Aug. 25 at the Gulfport Rehabilitation Center.

“This is one wonderful mother that we have,” said daughter Barbara Walker.

Mrs. Helen was born to Thomas and Sara James on Aug. 27, 1914, in Valdosta, Ga., one month after World War I began. She married at an early age to Robert Mack Swain and moved to St. Petersburg in 1933.

With this union, the happy couple brought four children into the world. Her husband supported the family as a mason, building many of the homes in Lakewood Estates.

Upon his retirement, the two moved to Odessa where she grew vegetables, raised chickens and grew sugar cane. Granddaughter Brenda Walker remembers spending time on her little farm in Pasco County.

“I loved the chickens and the hens and the eggs,” she said. “There would be sugar cane. She would have everything for us. She would take us to church and I love her so much.”

When her husband died in 1977, Mrs. Helen moved back to St. Petersburg.

“He was a good father and he was good to her,” said Barbara, noting that Mrs. Helen remarried in 1980 to Cassius Love who also preceded her in death.

As adults, her grandchildren always remember her being there.

“She helped me out a lot with my kids, raising my kids,” said oldest granddaughter Judy Walker. “She was there for me and I just love her so much. She’s the best grandmother.”

Great grandson Aaron Brown, 35, is truly grateful to have grown up with his grandmother and great grandmother.

“It had to be the most enjoyable time in my life,” he said.  “I’m truly blessed to have a great grandmother that’s still alive and to be able to sit and come see her and tell her how much I love her. She lights up every time she sees me.”

Great-great granddaughter Angel Brown, 21, spent whole summers with Mrs. Helen.

“That should mean something because as a kid for you to choose to spend the summer with your grandmother over going to summer camp with your friends, it means a lot,” said Angel.

She remembers sitting in the living room all day listening to Mrs. Helen tell stories of her life.

“She used to tell me some really funny, funny stories and we’d just sit there and talk,” Angel remembered. “I’m just truly blessed to have her in my life.”

Mrs. Helen leaves a loving impression on everyone she meets, including staff and other residents.

Director of Social Service Roberta Knight expressed how Mrs. Helen reminds her of her grandmother.

“She’ll tell me stories about all kinds of stuff and I can sit there for hours talking, laughing and giggling,” she said. “That’s my baby right there.”

Resident Alice Wilmot, 91, said Mrs. Helen was the first person to greet her when she came to the facility two and a half years ago.

“She’s always smiling at us and she makes us all happy,” said Wilmot.

The party was complete with chicken wings, a slide show, music, and of course a cake.

“I love you all,” said Mrs. Helen, as she basked in the love of her family.

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