For youngsters at last week’s vacation Bible school at Eastpoint’s First Baptist Church, encountering the love of God may have been a first-ever thing.
For Alberta Read, it was the culmination of nearly a century of experience.
At age 99, Read was among the two dozen volunteers from Belleview Baptist Church near Ocala who, for the third consecutive year, traveled north to conduct the weeklong Bible school at the Eastpoint church.
With a smile on her face as stirring as a rainbow, Read clapped and shimmied and sang right along with the tots, encouraging them in their exploration of the week’s theme, to face their fears and to trust God.
“I’m helping them singing, whatever they are doing, just acting crazy with the kids,” said Read. “Whatever they do, I do.”
Read continues to live alone, as she has for nearly the last 50 years, ever since her husband Edgar died from a heart attack at age 53.
Read grew up in Pennsylvania, originally in a Methodist family, but later became a Baptist when “I accepted the Lord as my Savior.”
Her beau Edgar would come to her town to visit, and they fell in love and were married in 1932. She worked as the manager of a school cafeteria in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and he worked a factory job for the Rohm and Haas Company.
The couple, who did not have children, had purchased five acres in central Florida in anticipation of retiring to the Sunshine State “but my husband died before we even got there,” she said.
Life as a widow was difficult in Langhorne, so Alberta moved down to Florida to be near her cousins, Flossie and Bob Castle in Belleview.
The Castles were among the two dozen volunteers who came down from First Baptist of Belleview, and brought down all the materials for the Bible school curriculum “Colossal Coaster World” and their experience with teaching it
The lessons are all built around the verse from 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment.”
The lessons all focus on Paul in the book of Acts, and teach kids they can trust God no matter what twists and turns the ride of life may take.
“It’s about daring to change, to speak up, to believe, to stand strong and to trust,” said Flossie Castle.
She said Alberta was involved in all aspects of the school last week. “She helps them sing and helps with the Bible story and trying to smile and show the kids some love,” said Flossie Castle. “We’re all here to tell them Jesus loves them.”
Read, who will turn 100 on Sept. 17, said she’s in good health, with the exception of her eyesight, which has waned due to macular degeneration.
“You do lose something at age 99. I guess your eyesight is the first to go,” she said. “I’m no different than anybody else. Other than that I’m doing everything I used to, except teach. I can’t see to study my lesson. I don’t read anymore.”
Flossie Castle said she and her husband eat together with Read, but that she is mostly self-sufficient. “She sang in the choir until she couldn’t read music anymore” she said. “She visits hospitals and nursing homes, and she goes to all the services.
“She took care of me when I was a little girl, and now I take care of her,” said Flossie Castle. “She does very well. She’s pretty healthy. She’s getting forgetful.”
Read said she feels good these days as the years continue to roll by. “I feel fine and I live alone and I don’t have any problems,” she said. “The years go fast. As you get older, they go faster and faster.
“I am trying to volunteer and I have a couple jobs to do,” she said. “I just do as I’m told. At 99, what more can I do?”