Orangeburg resident Julia Wolfe has a heart of gold that bursts forth with love for the family and friends who have enriched her life over the past 103 years.
In fact, it is her giving and caring spirit that has touched many lives and is why she thinks God has let her live so long.
“I guess it’s because you're good and you follow the scripture and do the right thing and treat everybody like you wish to be treated yourself. A lot of people don’t know how to treat nobody, but I do,” Wolfe said.
“I got other people's children, about as many as I got of my own. They all love me and I love them because I always treat them like mine,” she said.
Close family friend and landlord Johnny Spells, who recently lost his mother, is one of them.
He said he and his wife, Maxine, would not trade Wolfe for anything.
“We treat Ms. Julia just like a mom. She’s really not like a tenant here. We wouldn’t give anything for her. We remember days come up, we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from. We used to go to her house and she would give us a meal. We would go there. Didn’t have a piece of bread on the table, but we’d go next door and beg Ms. Julia for a meal," Spells said.
Wolfe, who has bounced back from a recent bout with pneumonia, said she is feeling better now.
While she can’t move as fast as she used to, she is still grateful for life and being among family and friends.
“I ain’t so easy to work with, but you got to go along with it. I try to not let nothing get me down,” Wolfe said.
Born in Rowesville, Wolfe did housework for various families throughout her life.
“I worked for some white people when I was young, and they still take care of me yet today because they hadn’t forgotten what I did for them,” Wolfe said.
Recalling her early life, she is no stranger to hard work.
“We had to work hard for everything. Go in those white people's field and work from sun up to sun down for little of nothing. But we was living and we was eating, thank the Lord for that. But me, myself, I never was a mean person. I always was good to everybody, white and black,” Wolfe said.
She said she has learned many lessons in life, including how to love.
“You can learn how to love from other people. I take all of these here as my children,” she said, referring to the sea of people who gathered in her living room to celebrate the woman who has meant so much them, including Clay “C.J.” Middleton.
Wolfe was the aunt of Middleton’s late wife.
“C.J. is our everything. When he hears that we want something, before you know it, you got it. You don’t know where it came from, but C.J. brought it in. He’s everything. I can tell Johnny, ‘Johnny, I need so and so.’ He says, ‘Alright, Ms. Julia,’ and before you know he’s darting in that door with it,” Wolfe said.
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Middleton said, “I’m her accountant. I write her checks and stuff and take care of her bills. Basically that’s my job. She was my wife’s aunt. My wife has passed now, but she’s still Aunt Julia ... It ain’t no burden on me because she’ll cook those collard greens and cabbage.”
Wolfe still loves to cook. Her favorite foods include cabbage, shrimp and fish.
“It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t cook. I like lima beans, butter beans, peas and rice, okra. Ooh, I love all those things, all that good stuff, corn bread,” she said, noting that she also tries her hand at cooking fruit cake and chicken feet.
Wolfe’s nephew, Billie Jameson, also has a special place in his heart for his aunt.
“Oh, she means the world. That’s my mother’s sister, the only one living. I lived with Aunt Julia when I was a young boy here in Orangeburg. I was working to the bakery, and she was just my cherished aunt. I love my aunt,” Jameson said.
He added, “I come up and used to fix her breakfast. She likes grits, eggs and different things.”
Stephanie Hilliard said her son, Brian, has also fallen in love with Wolfe. Wolfe and her son do crossword puzzles together.
“Aunt Julia has really been an inspiration and a jewel to our family. She has the heart of my son. I just love her,” Hilliard said.
Wolfe said Brian always brings her crossword puzzles.
“He always bring me three and four at a time. I got a pile in there. I used to do the puzzles where you put together with your hand, and I stopped doing them because I didn’t have the room for them. So I started doing the crossword, and I like to do them. That’ll keep your mind together,” she said.
Wanda Aiken, who helps serve as Wolfe’s caretaker, said she and Wolfe go a long way back.
“That’s my Aunt Julia. I would come visit her. We’d just sit and talk and laugh, and now I’m her caregiver. I come in and I take care of her, make sure everything is alright. This is something I love doing. That’s my heart right there. That’s my angel,” Aiken said.
She added, “I remember years when we were small, she stayed on Shuler Street and we used to go visit her right down from Edisto Gardens. I remember those days. She never said a bad word to any of us. She treated us like we were hers. I love here. Won’t give nothing for her.”
Ruby Williams also remembered visiting Wolfe and how loving she always was to her and her family.
“My Aunt Julia used to live across the street from me. She loved me at a time in my life when I was at my lowest. She loved me no matter what. She was never judgmental, and she cared for my daughters when I wasn’t in a place where I could do what needed to be done for them,” Williams said.
Williams added, “She made sure we always had something to eat. She was always there, and she was just that person who would always tell you that no matter what you felt, that everything was going to be alright.”
Wolfe’s only child, a daughter named Van Fredericks, passed away on Dec. 17, 2012, but Wolfe has been left with three grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren, along with a host of loving nieces and nephews and other friends.
Her oldest granddaughter, Patricia Fredericks, admires her grandmother and her spirit.
“My grandma is the most amazing person I’ve ever seen. She’s just lovable. All the kids love her,” Fredericks said.
Wolfe, who still maintains an independent spirit and doesn’t like to “lean on nobody too hard,” said she is grateful to God for his blessings.
“Oh Lord, he’s been wonderful. He watch over me night and day. He got me this far. I didn’t come alone. He was with me every step of the way,” she said.