Whenever I get to the Georgia Museum of Agriculture in Tifton, Georgia, where our boy now works, I look forward to a hug and a visit with Ms. Ferol Cosper. A 100-years young, Ms. Cosper works at the museum. Drives her own self to work still, she does. Packs her peanut butter sandwich and brings her apron with her. Ms. Cosper will be the first to tell you she can’t cook.
“I couldn’t cook a thing when I got married,” she says.
The young couple lived with her husband’s parents. Ms. Cosper’s mother-in-law offered to make the biscuits if Ms. Cosper would cook the eggs. Easy enough, right? If you had ever cooked an egg. Ms. Cosper had not. So, quick-thinker that she is still, Ms. Cosper told her mother-in-law, “Why don’t you show me exactly how your son likes them and I’ll watch you so I know how to make them like you do.”
Ms. Cosper has long been a study in diplomacy. A self-taught, life-long learner, Ms. Cosper says her biggest regret in life is that she didn’t go to college. “I would have liked to have done that,” she says. But she married in 1935 at age 19. College wasn’t an option.
She’s worked for the past 90 years, starting in the cotton-fields when she was only 10. When the school kids come to visit at the museum, Ms. Cosper is able to tell the kids how all the antique equipment works because she’s used it over her lifetime. Or as Stephan likes to say, “The cotton section of the museum is her jam.”
The museum was founded by her nephew on July 4, 1976, but Ms. Cosper didn’t take advantage of that relationship when she applied for a job. Her nephew didn’t even know she was working there until months later. A living history museum, there are always young boys sporting suspenders and girls wearing calico dresses. School classes come by the busloads on a daily basis. It’s Williamsburg gone Deep South, add in the pork skins and peanuts.
Some people as they age say that being around a bunch of school kids makes them nervous. Not Ms. Cosper. She still giggles like a school girl whenever she makes a witty statement, which she does almost every other sentence. She loves to read and is thankful that she is able to without difficulty. Learning is her lifeblood..
She and her husband celebrated 50 years of marriage before he passed away from lung cancer. “Doctor told him to quit smoking.” She never remarried. “I was in my sixties. I guess I thought I was too old.” When I point out that was 40 years ago, Ms. Cosper says, “I didn’t want to have to train another one. I had a good one I had trained pretty well.”
Laughter is Ms. Cosper’s go-to. She tells me how smart my son is but how he needs a wife. I agree. Later, after I bid her goodbye, Ms. Cosper told Stephan about our conversation. She admonished him that he needed to marry and father some grandkids, Stephan pointed out that I already have three grandsons.
“Kind of greedy of Mama to want more, don’t you think?” Stephan said.
“That’s not greedy,” Ms. Cosper retorted. “We all want more grandchildren.”
See now why I love this woman?
She makes 100 seem like the new sixty.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY and the forthcoming CHRISTIAN BEND (Mercer University Press).