Walter Amaker, Hattie Felder and Louise Mack are siblings who will all be in their 90s by the end of this year. None of them are prone to just sitting around but instead lead active lives that include driving and exercising.
They have four younger siblings whose collective faith has carried the entire family through the ups and downs of life.
Walter, 92, Hattie, 91, and Louise, who will turn 90 in November, are Orangeburg residents whose zest for life keeps them looking years younger than they actually are. None of them have had any major illnesses; they believe the key to long life is continuing to keep themselves busy and trusting in God.
The three oldest siblings regularly attend St. Stephen United Methodist Church. Amaker drives, gardens and exercises “when I feel like it,” while Felder drives, cooks and exercises two to three times a week with her sisters at the Orangeburg County Council on Aging.
Amaker and Felder have been designated and celebrated as the “father and mother” of their beloved church.
Their other siblings include: Margaret Dykes, 83, of Orangeburg; Mary Johnson, 80, of Summerville; Liz Amaker, 73, of Orangeburg and Inez Amaker, 70, of Orangeburg.
The family gets together each Sunday for dinner, which sometimes includes Hattie’s famous sweet potato pie. The close-knit siblings also visit each other several times during the week for brunch and dessert, and they have family Bible study every Tuesday.
The musical family members also share their talents in the community. Walter is a former quartet singer, who still sings in his church. His sister, Hattie, still sings in the choir.
Hattie, Margaret, Liz and Inez also sing as members of the “Anointed Four.”
“We have different engagements. A lot of people from different churches invite us to sing. We sing at the Council on Aging when they call us to sing. We do old-school gospel acapella,” said Inez said, who attends St. Paul Baptist Church in Orangeburg, along with Margaret and Liz.
“The Lord is Blessing Me” is among the songs the group belts out with rhythmic ease.
Hattie said while she’s had to trim a few of her church activities, she still enjoys people and staying as busy as she can.
“I’ve been there all my life. I used to serve communion and usher until I started getting a little younger and had to slow up on some of it,” she said, smiling.
She is a former teacher’s aide and cook, who worked at both Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and Marshall Elementary School. Her husband, Elijah, died in 1996 at the age of 73.
The 91-year-old enjoys playing bingo and completing word puzzles on the rare occasion she does sit down.
“I just go. As long as I can go, I just keep going. I don’t think of sitting,” Hattie said.
Walter said, “That refers to me, too. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you go somewhere and sit down and get stiff and die. Exercise your limbs. You know what happens to the one that can’t move? That motor stops, which is your heart.
“You can’t move when your motor stops. So you stay active so you can keep that motor pumping. And it’s by the love of God, too. I’m not gonna count him out. The man who created us is still sitting high and looking low. I can feel him at times moving.”
While Walter's garden has gotten a bit smaller, the 92-year-old still tends to rows of butter beans, string beans and sweet potatoes.
“I think I’ve had a long life because I worked all my life," Louise said. "You got to move and do something. I had eight kids I had to raise. Keep moving. I got a bad leg, and that’s what bothers me. But other than that, I do pretty well.”
The siblings are the children of the late Margaret Amaker Haynes and Bennie Amaker. Two boys, Marshall, Margaret’s twin, and Edward preceded them in death.
Margaret, who is named after her mother and is also a minister like her mother was, said the family stays close because it's something she wanted them to do.
“The prayer of our mother kept us together. She was 94 when she passed. She prayed for all of her children to stay together. It was her wish that we would all be together, and that’s what we’ve tried to do,” she said.
Margaret said the family has been blessed with good genes and long life, and she points to the Bible scripture of Psalm 91:16 as testament to that. It reads: “With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”
Liz moved back to South Carolina from New York in 2004. While in the city, she worked with special needs children and also as a longtime Sears sales associate.
“After I relocated back to South Carolina, I worked at the Sickle Cell Foundation for about seven years,” Liz said, adding that her family’s closeness compelled them to community service and helping others.
“We’re a close-knit family. We’re always together and stick together in good times and bad. We have our little ups and downs, but we get over that and just stick together as family because that’s what our mom wanted,” she said.
Margaret added, “The family that prays together stays together. It’s basically prayer that keeps us together because that was Mama’s wish. She stayed with me before she passed and was a missionary for many years.”
Inez said while it wasn’t always easy growing up as the youngest sibling, it was “lots of prayers” that created an impenetrable family bond.
“We go through stuff, but it doesn’t separate us,” she said.
Louise said her many nieces and nephews pitch in to take care of family needs.
Hattie’s daughter, Linda, said no one can believe the siblings are as old as they are. She said this was the case when she went to the county health department with her mother to get her a birth certificate to replace the original one that was lost.
“The agent that was assisting us looked at her driver’s license and said, ‘Oh, no. Are you Hattie Felder? You’ll be 91? You sure I got the right person?’ Mom was sitting there laughing like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s me,’” Linda said, laughing.
She said, ‘No, I can’t believe it.’ I said, ‘Mom, stand up and let her look at you.’ Mom stood up and did her little twisting and dancing and turning around and around. Ladies came around from the back. One said, ‘Now, here I am in my 50s just dragging and limping, and she’s doing all this!’”
Hattie considers it a blessing, and her older brother and sister agree with her.
“It’s a blessing from the good Lord that we’re all still here. It’s no good that I did. He got me here,” she said.
Louise said, “I feel good, but I know one of these days I’m gonna have to leave. You have longevity, but all of us got to go. But I’m blessed to be here.”
“I thank God for helping us to be what we are today at this moment,” Walter said.
“Our mother helped us get to where we are today, and God’s grace and mercy is keeping us.”