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Marking time for 102 years
Julia Randolph, seated, celebrates her 102nd birthday Saturday afternoon with well wishes from her daughters Sara Griffieth, left, Louise Lipscomb, top, and niece, Dorothy Edmond.

Her eyes have seen our history.

Her legs have traveled miles and miles.

Her ears have heard the stories of generations.

And she’s soaked it all in for 102 years.

Gainesville resident Julia Randolph celebrated her birthday Saturday surrounded by generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She will turn 102 on Wednesday.

Her secret to longevity?

For Randolph, it’s taking the time to notice the little things, engage in the world and truly get to know the people you meet.

“The thing that encourages me is that she always talks about being able to be aware and see the things around her and just appreciate those things,” said Willie Lipscomb, Randolph’s grandson. “Not the big buildings, not the fancy cars, just the people and her surroundings.”

Her zeal for soaking in the world began at a young age, riding horses out on the farm where she grew up.

“That was more fun than anything,” Randolph said. “That’s what I loved.”

As she remembered the thrill of riding, Randolph scooted around in her wheelchair to demonstrate the saddle positions she could perform as a little girl. She could go backward and sideways and do tricks on her favorite horse.

Born in Dawson County in 1908, Randolph — one of 17 children — moved to Gainesville at about the age of 10. She grew up in town and worked as a housekeeper in a few private homes, taking care of both her own and her employers’ children. She later served as a dietician for Fair Street Elementary School.

Willie Lipscomb recalled going to work with his grandmother when he was a little boy.

“I got to see everything because I was walking with her,” he said. “We’d go to work, but she always made it her business to stop me out by the five-and-dime store. I’d get a toy just about every day.”

Those who know her say Randolph’s outgoing personality and spirit grab everyone she meets.

“I fell in love with Ms. Julia when I first met her,” said Janet Lipscomb, Willie Lipscomb’s wife. “Her personality was just so open and warm. Everybody that she talks to, she has a pleasant word for them. She just talks to you like she loves you.”

The Lipscombs said they want the younger generations to spend as much time as they can with Randolph.

They want to listen to her stories. They want to know her history. They want to learn about what she saw as she walked through a Gainesville few can still imagine.

Because her story is encouraging.

“It’s not about just that you get old,” Janet Lipscomb said. “You can be old and still be vibrant. She has a vibrancy for living.”