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Goldwire family to celebrate matriarch’s 100th birthday
Thelma Goldwire
Thelma Goldwire, a lifelong resident of Clyo, will celebrate her 100th birthday on April 13. (Photo by Barbara Augsdorfer.)

By Barbara Augsdorfer,

Editor for the Effingham Herald


According to several websites that cite population statistics and trends, the United States is home to almost 100,000 centenarians – that is, people who have reached 100 years of age.

Out of about 336 million people in the country, centenarians account for only 0.27% of the US population – making them a rare treasure.

One of those rare treasures is a longtime resident of Clyo who will celebrate her 100th birthday on April 13. Her family is planning at least two celebrations to mark the event.

Thelma Roper Goldwire was born on April 13, 1923 in Clyo to Rev. Walter Roper and Sally Sarah Elizabeth Solomon Roper.

She remembers having a happy childhood in Clyo. “I played in a playhouse and walked to school,” Goldwire said. She attended local schools and proudly displays her graduation certificate from 7th grade at Taylor Chapel School, which is equivalent to today’s high school graduation.

She married Rubin Goldwire in 1941 when she was 18. Their marriage produced 10 children.

“Education of her children was very important to her,” says her daughter Ruth. The Goldwire children, their children, and grandchildren include a number of educators, doctors, law enforcement, clergy, military, and other professionals with college degrees. One of her sons, Dr. Franklin Goldwire, was the first principal at South Effingham High School and has been a magistrate judge for the county since 2021.

The Goldwire matriarch considered taking care of her family a blessing, which she enjoyed, said another daughter, Dorothy Davis.

“She cooked three meals a day, designed and sewed clothes for her children, made quilts, and still had time to serve her church and community,” Davis said. “Her baked cakes and pies were always enjoyed by her family and friends.”

During WWII, Thelma said she – like many other Americans -- had a Victory Garden. American civilians were encouraged to grow their own food as much as possible to reduce demand for commercially grown foods, packing materials, and transportation.

“She had a green thumb,” recalls Davis. “She grew collard greens and all kinds of vegetables.”

And while her husband Rubin didn’t enlist or get drafted during WWII, she recalls that her Uncle Aaron enlisted. “My mom cried about that and I cried with her,” Thelma recalled.

Thelma worked for many years as a cook for a Springfield family and for 17 years with the Effingham County Health Department. She believed in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

Thelma’s ten children have given her 33 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren, and 25 great-great-grandchildren. The newest great-great-grandson was born last December.

“She loves attending their weddings, graduations, and others special events; sometimes traveling over 15 hours to attend,” Davis continues. “Family is very important to her. Because of the pandemic, she has not been able to attend family events or attend church services in person.”

Thelma is quite adept at using 21st century technology. She uses her iPad to Facetime or Zoom to attend church. Two grandchildren are ministers, so she occasionally worships with them on her iPad.

Thelma is a member of Union Springs Methodist Church in Springfield where she still serves on several boards. She was also a member of the senior citizens choir and enjoys dyeing eggs for the annual Easter egg hunts. As the oldest member of the congregation, she also serves as the “Church Mother.”

“Church members look forward to her participating in church programs by reading poems and essays,” Davis said. “Her favorite poem is ‘My Cup Has Overflowed,’ by John Paul Moore.”

Throughout her years, Thelma has been very active in her community, helping others when she can; and working for civil rights with organizations such as the Effingham County NAACP, PTA of Effingham County Schools, Springfield Central High School Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, the March of Dimes, and Effingham County Association for Developmental Disabilities.

She was instrumental in helping to renovate the old Clyo Elementary School on Fair Street, which became the Effingham Developmental Service Center to provide programs for the developmentally disabled citizens of Effingham County, according to Davis.

Thelma Goldwire with County Commissioners
The Effingham County Board of Commissioners issued an official proclamation at their regular meeting on April 4 to honor Thelma Goldwire on her 100th birthday. Pictured with Thelma Goldwire from left: Phil Kieffer, (District 5); Reggie Loper (District 4); Chairman Wesley Corbitt, and Forrest Floyd (District 1). Commissioners Roger Burdette (District 2) and Jamie DeLoach (District 3) were absent. (Photo by Barbara Augsdorfer.)
“When she was still driving, she would often drive people to doctor appointments, the grocery store, to work, and even driving neighborhood students to school if they missed the bus,” Davis continued. “Driving others to their destination was one of her favorite ways to help. Although she is not able to drive anymore, she enjoys riding around Effingham County reminiscing about yesteryear and keeping up with the county’s growth and development.”

When asked to what she attributes her long life, she said, “Eating healthy, not smoking, or not drinking,” and “just praising my Lord.”

Her family added that she enjoys watching television shows such as “Golden Girls,” “New York Undercover,” “The Price is Right,” and keeps up with current events by watching Joy Reid on MSNBC and “The View.”

The family is hosting a birthday celebration for Thelma at the Ebenezer Retreat Center on April 15 for family and close friends; and the congregation of the Union Springs Methodist Church is hosting another celebration for her on April 30.

[The Effingham Herald would like to feature more stories about community members celebrating milestone birthdays or wedding anniversaries. Send your information to]