It’s not easy to throw a birthday party for Edith Barlow without her figuring it out beforehand.
On Thursday afternoon, some of her family, including her three daughters, gathered in Barlow’s apartment in Seymour to celebrate her turning 100 years old.
They had decorated the entryway with balloons and a collage of pictures from when Barlow was a baby up through more recent times.
“Even at 100, you can’t surprise her,” said her daughter, Carol Nicholson. “Nothing gets by her.”
“I knew they were up to something,” Barlow said.
She even had a special guest drop by to wish her well.
Marcus Spaan, a claims representative with the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board in Indianapolis, visited to present Barlow with a special certificate and letter of congratulations.
Barlow’s husband, Robert L. Barlow, worked as an engineer for B&O Railroad for 26 years from 1941 until his death in 1967, when he suffered a heart attack and died on the railroad. Edith still receives pension payments from the railroad company.
“To attain such a landmark age is a most notable achievement and greatly deserves recognition,” the letter stated.
Barlow said she is surprised she has lived this long and credits her life to her Lord.
“I often wondered what it would be like,” she said of turning 100. “Now I know.”
But there’s no real secret to her longevity, she added.
“The Lord just takes care of me,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be 100, but he had this plan for me.”
There are days she feels pretty good, she said, but others are a challenge, as getting older has impacted her sight and made it more difficult for her to walk.
“There are some days you just don’t feel too good,” she said.
But she still lives on her own, does her own laundry and even irons her clothes, she added.
Barlow was born March 24, 1916, to Benjamin and Emma Noblitt. She grew up in a log cabin in the area now known as Little Acres, just north of Seymour on State Road 11.
“My dad farmed and did carpentry work,” Barlow said.
Edith attended St. John’s Lutheran School at White Creek but did not attend high school. She worked on the farm and helped take care of other people, doing their housework, which was common for women to do at that time.
She was the oldest of her siblings, including five brothers and one sister. Her brother, Robert Noblitt, still lives in Jonesville, and her sister, Emma Jane Ferry, lives in Columbus.
On June 6, 1937, she married Robert L. Barlow in St. John’s Lutheran Church at White Creek.
They first met at a popular landmark in Jackson County — Rok-Sey Roller Rink in Rockford.
“I went to the skating rink with some friends, and we met out there, but I never did learn to skate,” she said.
Having lived the farm life, Edith Barlow knew she didn’t want to marry a farmer.
Before working for the railroad, Robert Barlow worked for Arvin Industries in Columbus. During that time, Edith said she would babysit.
The Barlows had four children, daughters Rita Jones, Joy Sutherland and Carol Nicholson, all of whom are still living, and son Danny Barlow, who died in 2008.
Edith Barlow has six grandchildren, Natalie Fulton, Kevin Jones, Gregory Jones, Angela Napier, Richie Sutherland and Jackie Blackerby; 16 great-grandchildren; and eight great-great-grandchildren.
Before she began to develop macular degeneration, Barlow said she loved to read, especially the Bible and the newspapers. She has read the Bible so many times, she couldn’t begin to guess how many.
“I can’t do it anymore, but they’ll read it to me,” she said of her family members.
Barlow said she takes care of herself as much as she can on her own but still relies on her loved ones.
“I’ve got a family that can’t be beat,” she said. “But I don’t ever want them to think I’m a burden.”
Her daughters said she never has to worry about that.
Barlow also said she is blessed to have a wonderful church family at First Baptist Church in Seymour, where she has attended for more than 60 years.
“They are some of the best people in the world,” she said.
From the stack of birthday cards she has received, it’s obvious Barlow is loved by many.
The number of cards stood at 113 on Thursday, but it was likely to go up even more as more cards trickle in.
“I’m truly blessed,” she said.