Woman celebrates 100th birthday in style

Former business owner, Wright-Patt employee shares stories.

“Nothing special,” Verdell Dawson of Dayton said about her 100th birthday bash, which occurred on Sunday, Aug. 28, at Summit Christian Church in Trotwood. “It’s good to be here and to have one. Age flips up on you, you know.”

Dawson, whose actual birthday was Aug. 30, has been a member of the church since moving to Dayton in the 1930s from Rushville, Indiana. While she was still in high school, she began working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a clerk cutting blueprints and working nights in the basement.

“My favorite thing were the days we got off for holidays. You could take an extra day and have a longer weekend,” she said.

She moved after graduation where she met her husband James Harold Dawson on base. He worked in transportation, driving people all around the base because the base was busy during the 1940s.

“People were coming and going at that time. He [her husband] drove people around. I don’t know the name [husband’s position]. They have all these fancy names now. We met during World War II and it was busy,” she said.

Dawson and her husband raised four kids in Dayton. Dawson retired from Wright-Patt, and after retiring, Dawson did what a lot of retired people do. They get another job.

She began working at House of Wheat Funeral Home on Gettysburg Avenue in Dayton. Fascinated by the way the owner would arrange the flowers, she decided that she wanted to own her own flower shop. She took a class at Rogers Funeral Home in order to gain the knowledge to run the business.

“I had to go to school to learn how to put all the colors together and how to make a profit. Having your own business makes you see things in a different view,” she said.

Dawson’s shop, Colonial Flowers and Gifts on Siebenthaler Avenue, was opened just a couple of years after she retired. Dawson said that working in the shop taught her how to work with and understand others.

“Trying to understand and getting along with people is important. Because people misunderstand you. Working at the flower shop, I came in contact with all different types of people. Sometimes you think you’re helping, but you might be making a mistake,” she said.

Work at the flower shop was a family affair. Dawson said that all four of her kids worked in the shop at one time or another. Barbara Mays, Dawson’s daughter, remembers witnessing her mother’s giving nature.

“She’s always trying to help somebody. We had a flower shop and she was giving away more than we were making. She always says a prayer for people,” Mays said.

The flower shop has since closed, but Dawson remains active in her church. Her daughter said she’s held almost every position in the church except the minister. She has been president of the Congregation, president of the Gospel Chorus, chair of the Christian Women’s Fellowship, chair of the Dorcus group and chair of the Senior Network, just to name a few. She tries to remain active and said that she reads every day.

“You have to keep up with the times. Every day I read something new. Every day I read the news or watch it on TV. That way you have something to talk about,” she said.

Dawson said she is just trying to take it easy now. When asked if she had any advice to give, she laughed. Eventually, she said being honest with people was good advice. When asked about the key to living a long life, she said staying healthy and exercising. And most importantly, Dawson credits her faith with helping her to get this far.

“It’s a blessing to grow up with my children, who are all still here. And also grandkids and great-grandkids. God has been with me through it all. With his help, all things are possible,” she said.

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