By Cara Zarecor
A huge happy birthday to Martha Akin of Kenton, celebrating her 105th birthday today (March 3). I caught up to Mrs. Akin through her youngest daughter, Carol Bowlin, also a Kenton resident, who stops by to see her mother every single day. The three of us recently gathered in Mrs. Akin’s living room for a chat.
Martha Moseley Akin was born at home in Greenfield in 1915. She was the fifth of seven children born to parents Pete and Lena Elam Moseley. By the time Mrs. Akin was five years old, she’d already lost two brothers and her mother. For the next three years she lived with her loving maternal grandparents and at age eight she returned home to live with her father and sisters on the farm. Despite the sadness and tragedies, Mrs. Akin described her childhood as “lovely.”
Mrs. Akin recalled walking a mile every day to get to Coat’s School, a country school which only went through the eighth grade. Luckily, Akin’s father moved the family to town where she was able to go all the way through 12th grade to graduate from Greenfield High School in 1933.
The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted through the late ‘30s. Mrs. Akin remembered two banks in Greenfield closing. People were so strapped that none of her graduating class could afford caps and gowns. The boys wore white slacks and dark coats, most of them borrowed, and the girls’ mothers made organdy dresses for them. Fortunately, Mrs. Akin’s aunt, regionally known as Miss Kate, owned a ladies’ boutique called The Style Shop in Greenfield, and she gave Mrs. Akin a dress to wear to the ceremony.
After high school, Mrs. Akin went to work for her aunt at that boutique, where her aunt allowed her to play an active role in selecting dresses, hats and accessories for the business at the St. Louis trade shows. Mrs. Akin worked there until she married a Greenfield man by the name of Joe Akin.
In 1945, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Akin were married in Corinth, Miss., where they then boarded a train called The Tennessean, which carried them to their honeymoon destination in Chattanooga. Joe was employed by the Oak Ridge arsenal, so the couple made their home there in Oak Ridge for two years before returning to Greenfield in 1947.
Mr. Akin became a self-employed deliveryman of Sealtest Milk while Mrs. Akin kept the books for the business at home and reared their three children. In 1947, they welcomed their first child Ellen, followed by Dane in 1950 and finally Carol in 1952. Mr. Akin succumbed to a massive stroke in 1970 at the age of 69.
In 1971, Mrs. Akin returned to the workforce as a seamstress and clerk at Remnant House in Greenfield. She enjoyed creating the garments that outfitted the mannequins in the window. Carol remembered having the pleasure of wearing some of those garments, as she was the same size as the mannequins. Later, Mrs. Akin served as assistant librarian at the Greenfield Library until she was 76 years old, but she didn’t leave her sewing machine until she reached 103.
Today, Mrs. Akin enjoys a quiet life in her Kenton home. She spends her days keeping up with the news, admiring her orchid blooms, working crossword puzzles and reading anything she can get her hands on. She devotes time each night to reading her Bible. Although she is still a member at Greenfield Church of Christ, she is no longer able to attend regularly. Mrs. Akin does her own banking, light cooking and loves drinking coffee. She has survived cancer and more recently a stroke.
One of Mrs. Akin’s mottoes is, “Don’t expect much then you won’t be disappointed.” She did admit, however, that she only wishes she could’ve had more time with her husband.
Mrs. Akin said that the biggest impact she’s made on anyone was encouraging her children to get college educations. Raising her children has been the happiest part of her life. Ellen now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Dane lives in Santa Cruz, Calif. Altogether, Mrs. Akin now has six grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
I found it impossible not to feel good in the presence of beautiful, lively Mrs. Martha Akin. She said the greatest lesson she’s learned in life is that people should mind their own business. She has met her blessings as well as misfortunes with an infectious, non-stop positive spirit and is still going strong.