UNION — When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the 1950s Loree Robinson’s doctors gave her at most three months to live.
On Friday she celebrated her 101st birthday.
“She had ovarian cancer in the mid-1950s and they gave her two to three months to live,” Robinson’s daughter, Ann Robinson Harmon, said Friday. “After surgery they gave her radium treatments, they didn’t have chemotherapy in those days. Her treatment was experimental, she went in to the hospital under the Cancer Association.”
Harmon said her mother went through a lot during her battle with cancer, but she emerged from that struggle the victor.
“She lived through a lot of bad days, but she fought the battle and won,” Harmon said. “I think she is living proof that miracles do happen.”
Robinson was born on May 9, 1913, the daughter of the late Wade Hampton James and the late Maggie Spiller James. She was one of 10 children. Of those children three — Robinson and her sisters Jeanette McDaniel of Flint, Michigan, and Hazel Black of Union — are still living.
Harmon said that before her battle with cancer, her mother led an active life, a life she resumed after beating the disease.
“She was always active in her yard when younger, she cut grass and trimmed the shrubs until she was 85,” Harmon said. “She had to stop at that time even though she didn’t want to.”
Robinson is a member of First Baptist Church in Union and Harmon said her mother remained active in the church for as long as she was able. Harmon said her mother now attends church at Ellen Sagar Nursing Home and rarely misses a service.
Ellen Sagar was where Robinson’s birthday was celebrated Friday afternoon with Harmon and several other members of her family present.
Harmon said that while she now lives at the nursing home, her mother stays active particularly when it comes to dancing, especially when “Elvis” is in the building.
“They have an Elvis impersonator come in and she always dances with him,” Harmon said. “She also dances with Jeff Barber, the administrator; Grady Evans, the office manager; and Ginger Wix and Carol Beheler. These are a few of her favorites.
In the course of her long life, Robinson has been a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.
“She was married to my father, Lewis ‘Diamond’ Robinson, he was a well-known barber in Union for years and everybody called him ‘Diamond,” Harmon said. “They met when they were very young and it was love at first sight.”
During the course of their marriage, the couple had three children including Harmon, who lives in Union; her sister, Jeanette Robinson Johnson of Inman; and a son, Lewis Jr., who died as an infant.
Harmon said her father died in 1964.
In addition to her daughters, Robinson has a granddaughter, LaShelle Limehouse; two great-grandchildren, Patric Limehouse and Britton Limehouse; and a great-great-grandson, Cameron Limehouse.
Two grandsons — Wayne Johnson and Michael Johnson — are deceased.
Harmon said that her mother attributes her longevity to her faith in God and the power of prayer.
“She is a very strong lady, her faith and prayer keeps her going,” Harmon said. “She always says without God she wouldn’t be here today.”
That faith kept Robinson going through another health care problem when, in 2008, she broke her hip. Harmon said Dr. Anthony Sanchez did her mother’s hip replacement “and she said she feels blessed to have him as her doctor.”
Her mother’s 101st birthday brought back memories of her childhood for Harmon, and the close relationship with her mother that began in those days.
“When I was a child she read to me in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace,” Harmon said. “She’d have me in her lap and I loved it.”
Harmon added that her mother has always loved to read.
“She always loves to read books and her Bible,” Harmon said.
Looking back on her mother’s more than a century of life, Harmon feels her mother’s longevity is quite an achievement, especially in the light of her long ago battle with cancer when she was given little chance of survival.
“I think to live to be 101 is quite an accomplishment,” Harmon said. “She’s enjoyed the many who have visited her, she likes to talk about the good old days. Most people always enjoy her stories.”
Enjoy was the operative word Friday afternoon as Harmon, her sister Jeanette, and her daughter LaShelle helped the family matriarch celebrate the first year of her second century.
Robinson was all smiles as she talked about the past century, recalling the farm she grew up on; the church she attended as a girl and sang in its choir; meeting her husband and the home they shared on the Beltline after they moved from Pea Ridge; raising her family; and, briefly, recalling her battle with cancer.
As for her longevity, both Robinson and her family pointed out that, except when she was being treated for cancer, she has never taken any medication.
Like her daughter, Robinson attributes her longevity to her faith in God, though she admits to being surprised to have lived to be 101.
“I never did think I’d live to be that old,” Robinson said. “I’ve had a happy life.”