Godwin celebrates 100 years with family, friends

Published 11:30 pm Monday, September 23, 2013

Abraham Lincoln said that all he was, and ever hoped to be, he owed to his angel mother.

The Godwin brothers didn’t say it exactly that way but they left no doubt as to the impact their mother, Mattie Lee Tomlin Godwin, had on their lives and the life of their sister.

Mattie Lee Godwin of Brundidge has been celebrating her 100th birthday day since Saturday, Sept. 21, the day on which she was born 100 years ago. And, as long as the cake and punch last, she will continue to celebrate, her son, Michael Godwin, said, laughing.

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“We had thought about celebrating Mother’s 100 birthday at Salem Baptist Church where she actively served for more than 40 years and is now the oldest member,” Godwin said. “But celebrating this milestone birthday here in her home setting has worked so well. People have been coming all weekend. This has been a special time.”

Mrs. Godwin was born in Clayhatchee and attended boarding and high school at Downing Schofner Institute for Girls in Brewton where she finished as class valedictorian. She received a full scholarship to Livingston State. However, Mrs. Godwin’s dream of a college education was never realized when the college closed due to the Depression and the persistent attention of a young man named, Robert (Bob) Godwin.

Robert and Mattie Lee Godwin moved to Brundidge in 1938 “on the chance of a business venture,” and established themselves and raised four children.

Robert Godwin went on to be a successful Brundidge businessman and a pillar of the community. Much good could be said about him. But it is the life of the woman who stood behind the successful man that is being celebrated.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage visited Mrs. Godwin on Monday and presented her a proclamation from the city honoring her 100th birthday.

During the mayor’s visit, Michael Godwin and Larry Godwin shared stories of their mom with him and his wife, Johnnie.

Michael Godwin is a landscape artist in Missouri. He said that his mom was and remains the most influential person in his life.

“It was through Mother’s influence that I developed a love of all nature,” he said. “She loved plants and taught me about them. She loved birds and butterflies. She would take me on field trips to museums and old cemeteries and to talk with old folks. She passed her love of history, her interest in genealogy, her curiosity and her dedication to maintaining memories on to me.”

Larry Godwin, who is a nationally known metal sculptor, said that his mother had a deep appreciation for art and allowed him to be creative, if coloring and drawing on the wall could be considered “creative.”

She was a “forgiving” of Ronald when he was also a budding young artist.

Ronald Godwin is a welded metal sculptor, who practiced his art in Greenwich Village. The Godwin brothers’ sister, Carole Gaspar, opted for a career in opera rather than as concert pianist.

“Mother recognized Larry and Ronald’s artistic talent and allowed them to be creative,” Michael said. “She also recognized Carole’s talent when she showed interest in piano and in singing. Mother did all she could to encourage us and support us.”

When Mrs. Godwin was asked where their children got so much talent, she had a standard answer. “From Robert and me because we don’t have any left.”

The brothers said that both of their parents grew up knowing how to work. They were both “strong willed’ and that often created fireworks.

“Mother was family centered,” Michael said. “She gave us her constant and unwavering attention. Our dad was more involved in his business and was more community oriented. He was generous to a fault.”

After the children were older, Michael said Mrs. Godwin made it known that she was not made to stand behind the coattail of her husband.

She ventured into business on her own.

Larry said his mother was more liberal thinking. She often observed the black women in the community standing over hot wash pots doing their laundry.

“Mother thought that was sad,” he said. “She was an entrepreneur. She opened a wash-a-teria so those women would have somewhere to do their washing. She later opened a dry cleaners and ran it herself. She said that she was not too good to do other people’s laundry.”

Robert and Mattie Lee Godwin came to Brundidge on the chance of a venture and with hopes of achieving a better way of life.

The couple found a better way of life. Although there were bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome, Mattie Lee Tomlin Godwin has had a good life. As long as there’s cake on the table, friends are invited to stop and visit with Mrs. Godwin at her home on North Main Street.