Bessie Todd is celebrating her birthday this week -- and this year's a big one. On April 26, she turns 105 years old. When I stopped in to meet her last week, she was just about finished with her hair. It was being curled and styled by an employee of the Jewish Home, part of Menorah Park in DeWitt. As she was turned to face me from her wheelchair, a big smile brightened her face and she held out her hand to greet me. She looked beautiful.
"It's so nice to meet you," I said, and we arranged our chairs to begin our interview.
Bessie Todd was born in Pompey in 1903. Her family moved to Manlius in 1907. This information I received not through our dialogue, but in a five-year-old article written by former Eagle Bulletin/DeWitt Times editor Joel Currier. He interviewed Todd when she first joined the century club.
A former teacher, Todd taught English and social studies to eighth graders in the Fayetteville-Manlius school district. She also served one year as principal for Moses DeWitt Elementary School. Her 45-year teaching career ended in the 1960s when she retired.
"She was a teacher through and through," said Barbara Sullivan, Todd's niece. "She truly loved teaching. She loved children."
Todd was married twice but never gave birth to children, although her second husband Marshall Todd had a child from a previous marriage.
"While I loved children, I just wasn't blessed with any of my own," she said five years ago. She told Currier she felt she adopted her students as her own.
Another child she loved as her own was Sullivan, the daughter of Todd's sister Ethel. Sullivan was raised in Gloversville, N.Y. and used to spend a lot of time with "Aunt Bess" in the summertime.
Sullivan remembers Todd as a unique lady who was a lot of fun.