Senior enjoys home, sweet (Forest) home

Published 4:33 pm Friday, June 25, 2010

Rilla Till Gardner has been a country girl all her 86 years, and she likes it that way. Growing up near the Forest Home community in rural Butler County, she recalls spending most of her childhood “working in the field.”

“They told me I was three when I started working, but I know they didn’t give me a hoe, because Daddy wouldn’t have had a crop left,” she says with a smile.

Gardner and her two older sisters and brother and younger sister (one older brother passed away as a baby) did get time for the three “Rs” at the Forest Home Community School.

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“Back in those days, school bus drivers had to supply their own buses. Mr. Woodruff drove our bus for years, and then his son took over,” Gardner recalls.

Woodruff also drove his bus each Sunday morning to pick up folks up and down the highway, Gardner says.

“My daddy never owned a car as long as he lived, so that’s how I got started attending Forest Home Methodist Church,” she explains. “That’s been my church ever since.”

Gardner spent her last three years of school in Greenville at Butler County High, before going on to business school in Montgomery.

Her office job there indirectly led to her finding her life partner.

“I worked with a girl from Brantley and I had a brother living in Luverne. I went home with her one day and we stopped in Luverne to visit with my brother. Well, she brought Carroll Gardner to see me. She was going out with his brother back then . . . and – I got a prize.”

Gardner and her “prize” married in 1947.

They went on to raise three children together: Jimmy Gardner, Ronnie Gardner and Fleta Richard.

Gardner is the grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of four.

“Those great-grands can certainly put on a show,” she says with a fond smile.

Gardner started attending the Senior Nutrition Center in Greenville several years ago.

“I brought a friend who didn’t drive to the center until she passed away, and I kept on coming here ever since.” Gardner says.

Gardner was busy in her kitchen in her younger days. “Oh, I used to do a lot of cooking for the community’s children. But I have been out of practice for so long, I would hate for anyone else to have to eat it now,” she says with a shrug of her shoulders and a sheepish grin.

She still, however, enjoys working on the quilts produced at the center and “just getting out of the house and visiting with people.”

She’s not hankering to move to the “big city,” however. “I like it in the country; it’s what I’m used to and it’s where I know the folks.”