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She’s won numerous state and local civic honors, but it’s the blessings of a life that has spanned nearly 100 years that one Orangeburg resident is most thankful for.

Geraldyne Zimmerman, 98, has been called a community icon, civic pioneer and every other name for a person who has dedicated most of her life to the betterment of society, but her humble spirit and unassuming nature cause her to focus on so much more. She talks more about how others have helped to create a community of love and caring around her, one which she said has contributed to her longevity.

It is Zimmerman’s big heart that has always overflowed with thankfulness that has earned her designation as the exemplification of “gratitude” by the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.

“That’s quite an honor. I am truly grateful that I’m still here to see the beauty of the world and feel the love of my friends. Life is too good to be complaining. Complaining makes you unhappy, and I don’t intend to be unhappy,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said she is also grateful for her special family, including the 65 years she shared with her “wonderful” husband, Dudley, who died in 2000. The couple raised two children, Malone and Rose Hayzel. She has four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

Zimmerman still lives in the quaint two-story home her father built on Treadwell Street, the home where she and both of her children were born. Her family calls her every day.

“It means so much to me. It’s just so good. I’ve also got a lot of friends. Every little child gives me a big hug. They don’t know how to be deceitful. It’s caring from the heart,” she said.

Zimmerman said while thankfulness should extend all year through, Christmas should especially be a time of cheer and giving.

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“You ought to be thankful during the Christmas season. It’s a season of joy and happiness … and you have to appreciate the joyful occasion that it represents. I just can’t see anybody being unhappy and unthankful at Christmas time. It’s such a beautiful season. It’s not just the Christmas decorations, but the spirit of the people,” she said.

It is indeed people that Zimmerman loves. She said she is looking forward to living 100 years and is planning to have a “big bash for the whole town” when she reaches the century mark. She wants her family to have something even if she doesn’t make it, she said.

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“I’m getting there every day, and this is so great. Even if I’m not here, I want it held anyway. Orangeburg’s people have been so good to me. I love this place and I love the people. I’m grateful that people think of me and that they’re giving me my flowers while I can see and appreciate them. I’m most grateful for that,” she said.

Zimmerman said the support of her church family at St. Paul Episcopal Church also means a lot to her. Her faith keeps her smiling every day as well, she said.

“I’m always happy. I never go to bed unhappy. I’ve had my ups and downs. We all have them, but with the help of the good Lord, I’ve been able to survive them,” Zimmerman said.

She still has a strong, active affiliation with civic service through the Girl Scouts, the Helen Sheffield Girls Federated Girls Club and the Sunlight Club. She says the OCOC initiative is a worthwhile one and good character is discussed among members of each of those organizations.

“We get to the root. It’s not just something we see mentioned in the newspaper. We talk about it. I think the initiative has done a lot to help improve our community,” Zimmerman said.

T&D Staff Writer Dionne Gleaton can be reached by e-mail at dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5534.

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