Born in 1908, ‘Mama’ Gilfore never dreamed she would live to see a black president
Anyone who sits down to talk to ‘Mama’ Lista Gilfore of Ama wouldn’t think she’s 100 years old. Her mind is as sharp as a knife. Her speech is crystal clear. But what’s more remarkable than that, is the fact that her memory is excellent.
Gilfore has survived the Great Depression, voted in every election in the parish since the first time African-Americans were allowed to vote, and recalls the days when her children were first integrated into St. Charles Parish public schools.
“I never thought I’d live to see a black president,” she said. “I am very proud and very pleased.”
As for surviving difficult financial times, Gilfore says much like things are right now in the country, during the depression times were rough. However, families came together and helped each other.
“We stuck together as a family to stretch things and make sure everyone had enough,” she said. “I remember things being difficult, but I don’t remember being without anything because families came together back then and helped each other out.”
Gilfore is a survivor. At age 16 when her mother died she raised six siblings with the help of aunts on her mother and father’s side of the family.
“My mother died from asthma and heart problems,” she said. “My daddy said that he wouldn’t bring another woman in the house to raise us, so it was up to me because I am the oldest child.”
Gilfore worked as a cook for most of her life and her secret to a long life is simple and uncomplicated.
“Always do the right thing,” she said. “My parents and all of my family members raised us to do the right thing. They taught us right from wrong. They were old time. They don’t have many people like that anymore.”
Gilfore is healthy for the most part. She’s not on a special diet, but she does eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.
“Other than a little arthritis in my legs and my blood pressure being checked regularly, I’m just fine,” she said.
Gilfore reads a lot of history novels, reads the newspaper every day, and watches the news on television.
“The worst hurricane I’ve experienced is Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “I think that was the one that impacted this area the most.”
Gilfore attended school in Ama, but only went as far as the sixth grade.
“I left school in sixth grade, but my children all went to school,” she said. “And all six of my children graduated. Education is so important.”
Gilfore clutches a recent proclamation she received from Parish President V.J. St. Pierre with pride.
“I received this award from the parish,” she said. “I think it’s such a blessing that the Lord allowed me to reach 100 years. I don’t know why God allowed me to live this long and still in my right mind, but I’m grateful to him for that.”
Gilfore was born Nov. 7, 1908. She doesn’t drink or smoke and drinks bottled water, rarely using tap.