By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: June 16, 2018 | 2:10 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Rachael Via Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday, June 6, at her home on Middle Road in Prince George, surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones.
She has one daughter, Susan Robertson; three grandchildren, Dr. Michael Layne (Lannie) Hartsell (currently living and teaching in Thailand); Amy Dodson, Hopewell; and Christopher Robertson, Disputanta, a teacher at Walton Elementary; and seven great-grandchildren.
Rachael was born on June 6, 1918, in Martinsville, Virginia. She is the daughter of the late Mary Frances and J. W. Via. Rachael’s father died of a “liver ailment” at the young age of 37. Rachael’s mother eventually remarried J. W. Stultz, and the family moved to the big city—Hopewell!
This move to the “big city” happened when Rachael was 12-years-old. Her step-father, J. W. Stultz, worked for the Norfolk and Western Railroad as an engineer. Rachael, her parents, and siblings lived in a little white house that used to be where the gas station is now located outside of the Cavalier Square, adjacent to K&L BBQ.
Rachael Johnson’s family joined her for her special moment, the celebration of her 100th birthday! (Leila Holmes)
“The tracks were right outside our little house, and you could always hear the loud train as it pulled up and stopped to pick up my father, and then bring him back again in the evenings. Way back then, the railways would always provide their engineers with a house right beside the tracks so that they could pick them up for work each day,” Rachael said.
Rachael graduated from Hopewell High School in 1935. Rachael married Edward Lane Johnson. They were married for 32-years until his death in 1967. Rachael’s husband worked at the old Continental Can in Hopewell until he sustained an injury. He then went to work for the Virginia Department of Transportation, was Chief Cook for Central State Hospital, and retired as a police dispatcher for Prince George.
After finishing business school, Rachael began working at the old Woolworth’s in downtown Hopewell.
“When World War II started, in the early 1940’s, I actually became the first female manager Woolworth’s ever had. I guess it was me or no one because all the men had gone off to war,” Rachael chuckled. “When the men came back from war, one of them was given the manager position, and I was o.k. with that because I then had my precious daughter, Susan, in 1948.”
Not long after the birth of Susan, Rachael began working at the checkout of the old A&P Grocery store in downtown Hopewell for 35-years. “When the old A&P store moved up to Route 36 and became the Super Fresh, I worked there too. I retired from there in 1984 to take care of my third grandson, who was 6-months-old. This gave me an idea, and I opened up my own daycare that I managed and worked in for 13 years when I was 78-years-old,” said Rachael.
At the age of 78, Rachael longed for the days of working at the grocery store and all the people she used to greet, interact with, and work with. “So, I just went and got a job at Pantry Pride. The only thing was that by then they weren’t really checking out groceries right. They were using this new-fangled scanning of everything. This was so foreign to me and people used to laugh, and they still laugh, because I could never say the word right,” Rachael said. Instead of “scanning,” Rachael pronounces the word “scanting!” Rachael worked every afternoon from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m for 4 years. After a knee replacement, Rachael gave up her job at Pantry Pride at the age of 82-years-young. It was then that she moved in with her daughter, Susan, in Prince George.
Rachael Johnson blows out the candles on her beautiful birthday cake as she celebrates being 100 years young! (Leila Holmes)
Since the age of 12, Rachael has been a life-long member of West-End Presbyterian Church, Hopewell. She taught Sunday School there for 38 years. Rachael spends her days having fun with friends and family, to include her great-grandchildren, and she likes to travel.
“My mother is a quiet, sweet, and gentle lady. She loves Jesus and is a devoted Christian woman. She would always say to me to eat, sleep, and pray, and everything else will fall into place. I thank God for my Mother and for the strength and endurance I have been given to take care of her for the past 18-years, and I pray for the same for years to come,” Susan Robertson said.
One-hundred-years-young, and incredibly, Rachael Johnson takes no medicine. She takes a single baby aspirin each evening, as a preventative measure, but other than that, she takes no medicine of any kind—amazing! What in the world could this sweet and lovely lady’s secret be?
“Do what you can for others. Always do the best you can at things you attempt to do, and don’t give up. I eat chocolate every single day of my life. I just love it. As long as I can remember, I have always told everyone to eat chocolate every day and they will live to be 100. Well, I guess I must have been right,” Rachael said!