Jane Hope Fields spent Tuesday morning as usual, telephoning her daily birthday greetings to Georgetown College alums.
Then she blew out the candles on her own cake, celebrating her 100 years.
“What a milestone, what an achievement, what a lady,” Georgetown College President Dwaine Greene said in his recent President’s Perspective. “It is certainly not often that we have a 100-year-old still taking the initiative to call a ‘younger set’ of Georgetonians, those who are at least 80 years old, and wish them a happy birthday on behalf of the College.”
Fields grew up in Louisville with her parents, William S. Snyder and Ann (Anna) Eliza Saunders, and her two younger brothers, Gordon and Don, before she came to Georgetown College in January of 1935, a time of the Great Depression and when college cost, including room, board and tuition, were $250 a semester, she noted. Her parents had previously visited the campus with other young married couples and agreed if they ever had children, that was the college they wanted them to attend.
“I loved life at Georgetown immediately,” Fields said.
Fields stayed in Rucker Hall, the only girls’ dormitory on the campus, and formed a trio group with two of her friends, since girl trios were becoming popular at that time.
Those who knew Fields and her friends suggested they enter an amateur hour sponsored by the parent/teacher association at Garth School, the local high school at the time. The group became interested and after long preparations for the show, Fields said they looked great in their May Day dresses and sounded great.
“The three of us looked so good,” Fields said.
But, after sitting in the back of the auditorium and watching a few performances, Fields’ friends got cold feet and didn’t want to perform.
Fields said she was shocked and an argument ensued at their seats, with someone sitting in front of them. Fields had worked hard to get the trio into the show and she said she wasn’t going to let them quit. Her efforts failed and she sang the prepared numbers alone while the piano player of the group agreed to play the accompanying music.
Although the trio didn’t receive a prize, the performance led to Fields meeting Scoop Oldham, a local businessman who owned a local men’s clothing store downtown. He was a bachelor with a brand new Oldsmobile coupe, “looked like a movie star,” and was twice the age of Fields.
Their introduction led to their first date, where Oldham admitted to being the person sitting in front of her the night of the amateur hour and hearing the trio argue. He told her he wanted to see what she looked like, but he didn’t want to turn around, and that her performance was so well it seemed like the original plan.
Fields, 18, and Oldham, 36, married at Highland Baptist Church March 20, 1938, 23 years to the day after her parents married. Her mother served as her matron of honor.
Fields and Oldham had two children, Ben and Robin. Ben works with the SEC while Robin serves as the executive assistant to the president at Georgetown College, Fields said.
After 29 years of marriage, Oldham passed away, but Fields said she still loves him and misses him every day.
Fields admitted she didn’t graduate from Georgetown College, but she was awarded an honorary doctorate and also met her second husband, a professor named Carl Fields, there. He has also passed away.
With her 100 years of life, Fields was able to put together a collection of special memories, from growing up in the 1920s to her adult life, that she has shared with friends and family.
Carrie Johnson, director of Windsor Gardens, said she found the stories interesting and delightful, just like Fields’ personality.
“She is absolutely wonderful,” Johnson said. “I have never seen Jane Hope have a bad day. … She’s one of those people that’s just a delight to be around.”
One reoccurring theme in her collection are the memories she made with her family during Christmas time.
“How we looked forward to Christmas when I was a child,” Fields wrote.
Fields remembers her parents working hard the night of Christmas Eve to bring in and decorate a cedar Christmas tree while carefully assembling the toys. The Christmas she remembers the most is when her brother Gordon, who was in about the fourth grade at the time, brought a large Christmas tree home that had been used in a nearby Christmas program. The family was living in a temporary apartment on East Broadway in Louisville with high ceilings that was able to accommodate the tall decoration.
“I remember it as the largest Christmas tree we ever had,” she wrote.
But there is one story Fields said she hasn’t written down, and it has become one of the most important of her life.
One day years ago, Fields was watching a television program that interviewed David Berkowitz, a man also known as “Son of Sam” who is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to six murders in 1977. On the program he gave his story about his past and how he had formed a relationship with Jesus Christ, leaving the host and many others skeptical about his beliefs. As Berkowitz left the TV stage, he was mocked by the host after he said he looked forward to seeing him in heaven someday.
After seeing what he faced, Fields felt sorry for him and new she needed to do something.
“The Holy Spirit got a hold of me and touched me,” Fields said. “I wanted to write to him and told him I was going to put him on my prayer list.”
She was able to get Berkowitz’s address on a rerun of the program and wrote a letter to him, to which she received a quick response. That was in 1991.
Today, Fields still writes letters to Berkowitz once a month, and the two write about how they are doing, their faith and any prayer requests they have, among other things.
Fields said she grew up in a strong Christian home and having a relationship with God is the reason why she has been able to live to be 100 years old. That relationship is the key to life, she said.
“To know the Lord comes first,” Fields said. “The Lord has had a plan in my life ever since I’ve been born. He’s been so good to me. He’s blessed me in so many ways.”
Brianna White can be reached at email@example.com.