Elizabeth White Robertson in 1938, a year before she got married.
By Kevin Kirkland / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ask Elizabeth White Robertson how she survived the Great Depression and you’ll get a funny answer:
“We hardly knew there was a depression!” she says.
That’s because her family had a huge garden in Chatham, Va., where they grew all of their food, including wheat. As a child, she would pull a wheat-filled wagon to the mill to be ground into flour. Vegetables were stored or canned for use through the winter.
Mrs. Robertson, who turned 102 in December, also remembers the beginning of Social Security. Her job was to clean rooms at the Chatham Hotel. She and her boss each contributed five cents a week for her — a penny for every dollar she earned.
She was born on Dec. 21, 1914, in Virginia. Though she attended a segregated school, she played with black and white children in the neighborhood. Her great aunt helped raise her and supported the family. When she died, Elizabeth dropped out of school to help out at home. She did the cleaning while her older sister did the cooking.
While working at the hotel, she met Tracy Robertson and married him on June 15, 1939. When they moved to Donora in 1942, they had two children — Tracy of Black River, N.Y., and James (deceased). Two years later, they moved to Monongahela and had three more children: Hazel Murray of Elizabeth Borough, Patricia Donatto of Cleveland and Charles (deceased). She considers raising five children one of her greatest achievements. Three became teachers and two electricians.
Mrs. Robertson, an active member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Monongahela, was the longest serving member of its board of trustees when the church closed in 2013. For her help in transferring the building to the Holy Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, its members named the fellowship hall in her honor.
Her husband passed away in 1993 after 53 years of marriage. She has traveled throughout the U.S. and vacationed in Europe and the Caribbean Islands. She now lives in a personal care home in Monongahela and has eight grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren.
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