By DELANIA TRIGG, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Emogene (Spires) Gilmer will celebrate her 100th birthday Sunday with a party at the State Theater in Gainesville.
The Gainesville resident marks a century of life in remarkably good health.
She lives in her own home, can go out when she wants to and said crossword puzzles help keep her mind sharp.
Aside from some heart issues — surgeries to implant pacemakers — Gilmer said she’s physically sound.
Many of the afflictions common to older people seem to have passed Gilmer by.
Her hearing and vision are adequate. She doesn’t need blood pressure medication and she doesn’t wear dentures.
“I have all my own teeth,” the impeccably groomed Gilmer said. “Never had a tooth pulled.”
With her salt and pepper hair curled softly and her makeup on, Gilmer looks decades younger than her years.
Of her nine siblings — four sisters and five brothers, Gilmer is one of five still living.
She’s adored by her family including her niece, Robin Links who said she and her sisters call Gilmer “Emer.”
The siblings lost their own mother — Gilmer’s sister — not long ago.
Links said she and her sisters now consider their aunt — who never had biological children — their mother.
Gilmer’s nieces regularly help tidy her house and recently spruced up Gilmer’s small home in Gainesville’s historic district — adding a luxurious blue and white comforter set and other decorative accents for her bedroom.
The makeover wasn’t a birthday present.
“We did it out of love,” Links said.
Getting their beloved aunt to use the new home accessories was another thing.
“She didn’t want to sleep on her bed the first night,” Links said. “She didn’t want to mess it up. But she slept there last night. She loves it.”
Links said for decades Gilmer was a gracious entertainer who often cooked big meals and threw card parties for her extended family and friends.
Although she’s slowed down a bit over the years, Gilmer always excelled in the culinary arts.
Her specialties include potato cake made from leftover creamed potatoes and chess pies and fried pies.
“Butterscotch fried pies are my favorite, made in a cast iron skillet,” Gilmer said.
Gilmer said she doesn’t adhere to a restrictive diet.
“I just don’t like fish and I don’t like liver,” she said. “But I eat what I want to.”
Her penchant for hospitality likely stems from her upbringing.
“My mother never turned away anyone who was hungry,” she said. “Guys would get off the train and my mother would let them sit on the porch and give them something to eat.”
Gilmer was born in Marietta, Okla. She moved with her family to Gainesville when she was six months old.
She remembers living near the Scott Street bridge and playing with her siblings at Pecan Creek.
She was 18 when she married her husband, Wiley Gilmer, on Aug. 5, 1930.
Emogene Gilmer became a mother to Wiley’s two daughters, Helen and Bonny both of whom live in the North Texas area.
Like many during the depression years of the 1930s, the Gilmers paid their bills but had little money for recreation.
“After all the bills were paid, we’d sometimes have a quarter left,” she said.
The money was just enough to cover a soft drink for Gilmer and her step-daughters.
Despite their austere lifestyles, she said few people complained about their difficulties.
In addition to household duties, Gilmer worked at some downtown Gainesville mainstays — Chick’s Department Store and the Bandbox. Her sales career spanned 39 years.
“I started at Cinderella Children’s Clothes,” she said. “I sold kid’s clothes mainly.”
Her husband Wiley Gilmer, a longtime Wells Fargo Railway Express employee, died in 1978.
Like most people who pass the century mark, Gilmer sometimes considers the reasons for her uncommon longevity.
She doesn’t smoke and doesn’t drink — aside from an occasional sip of champagne at a wedding. Even then, Gilmer said she might taste the drink but usually doesn’t finish it.
Above all, she said she’s never let stress or fear control her life.
“I don’t worry about anything,” she said. “If I can fix it, I will. If I can’t, I don’t worry about it.”