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Life 101

Life 101 is not a remedial course in life, but the story of a phenomenal woman who is now on the other side of 100 years old: Judge Jean Murrell Capers.

Judge Capers graduated from Case Western Reserve University, became the first black woman elected to Cleveland City Council, and later became a Cleveland Municipal Court judge. Judge Capers says her earthly father gave her advice to live by and her heavenly father brought her thus far. She now lives in a retirement community with her sister.

Here she tells her story to University Circle resident and friend Calvin Marshall: 

“What to do? What to do? I thank God for this day and for breakfast. Some days are better than others. I always want to put God first, then have breakfast and read the newspaper. I don’t care much for television. I check on my sister everyday. In life, you do your best. My best isn’t your best.

I miss not having a car and the freedom that comes with it. But here I am, by the grace of God, 101 years young starting another century! What to do? What to do?

Maybe I will work on my book, respond to letters and phone calls requesting interviews on turning 101. I have a meeting tomorrow and a regular Sunday radio program after church. I’ve slowed down since 100 and some days I do nothing. You can do that when you’re 101 years old. And with passion!”

Calvin Marshall Talks About His Grandmothers

“Both of my grandmothers were taller than their husbands. Grandma Flossie and Grandma Fannie gave their best. The love and nurturing that they instilled is keeping the family afloat even today.

The one thing that really stands out in both of my grandmothers was that they expected you to do your best. They didn’t have it easy coming up and they made no excuses for hard times. They both prayed to God and got busy. Mother wit will take you far when God is at the helm. Therefore, if you are going to sing a song, sing the hell out of it. If you are going to preach a sermon, preach the hell out of it, as one of my grandmother’s would say!

Being from Pelham, Georgia and Camden, Alabama, my two grandmothers had a few choice expressions! They were know to say: Haste makes waste; Go to school and get your education and one day, you’ll make a heap of money; Is that all you’re going to eat? Sit down and let me fix you a plate; That ain’t enough to put in a cat’s eye.

I remember Grandma Flossie, my father’s mother, just like it was yesterday. She trusted God and wouldn’t spare the rod. If she gave you that look, boy you would straighten up in a hurry! The look I’m talking about could change a fast train’s direction and make it jump the track. I think someone knows what I’m talking about.

If my Grandma Flossie chastised one of her grandkids, they knew it. And if later, the kid complained about being hurt, she would threaten to put some snuff or tobacco where it hurt. All of a sudden, the kid was well.

Grandma Flossie sang spiritual songs while preparing meals. I never saw her use Jiffy mix or pancake mix. She made cornbread and hotcakes from scratch. The hotcakes were larger than a plate! I remember that good ole fried chicken, squash, corn, greens, cakes and pies and the main ingredient in all the food she cooked was love. When Grandma Flossie said dinner was ready, you washed your hands and ate at that time, not later. Grandma Flossie went home to be with Jesus in 1972. When I think of Grandma Flossie, the song “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” echoes in my mind, and putting tobacco on a bee sting!

I remember Grandma Fannie, my mother’s mother. Grandma Fannie paid her way and then some. She feared no one but God! All her grandkids respected her because of her loving character. I am the oldest of her grandchildren. I always felt privileged in her presence and I got to know her before some of my cousins were born. Grandma Fannie and I had a special bond. She could tell me about life and traveling because she’d been a few places outside the U.S.A.

Grandma Fannie sacrificed. For her family and church, she gave all she had. I especially feel guilty that I had nothing to give her in her last few years on this earth other than time.

Grandma Fannie taught me to make a pound cake from scratch. I remember some of the remedies she brought to Cleveland from Alabama: castor oil, baking soda and vinegar, cod liver oil. Grandma Fannie had a sense of humor and she was very smart. She was honest and had common sense a plenty. I remember one day, she tackled my cousin Rico. You had to be there! I made her a pound cake on her 90th birthday and she enjoyed it all my herself. Grandma told everyone, “Don’t touch that. This is mine.”

Her favorite song was “If You Believe.”

~ By Calvin Marshall, a University Circle resident, poet and chess coach

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