Even in a year that has brought the world so much bad news, there are rays of positivity that shine through. Those rays were shining brightly outside Savannah Court on Saturday, Dec. 19, in celebration of one of its residents.
Lucius Walker turned 103 on Dec. 19, and in honor of the milestone, Walker’s family worked with the staff at Savannah Court to organize a socially-distanced drive-thru celebration. Residents watched from the front porch as a small parade kicked off at 3 p.m., led by a City of Milledgeville fire truck. Well-wishers drove through, many with signs hanging from their car windows, waving, honking and calling out birthday wishes.
Through it all, Walker sat, surrounded by his family, balloons and a birthday cake, waving at the stream of friends who came out to wish him a happy birthday.
“My daddy’s always been such a caring, concerned person,” said Walker’s daughter, Fifina Stephens.
Walker was born in Baldwin County on Dec. 19, 1917, the oldest of three children. As a member of the Army, he served his country in World War II, stationed in Belgium and France.
On Feb. 4, 1943, Walker married Mary F. Walker, a longtime educator in Baldwin County. Walker celebrated 73 years of marriage with his wife before she passed away in 2016.
In the years after the war, the couple moved to Gary, Ind. for a few years before returning to Baldwin County to have a family. The couple had two daughters, though their oldest died from muscular dystrophy at the age of 11. Stephens is Walker’s only living child. She and her husband, Larry, have lived next door to her father’s former home for more than 30 years.
Walker also has two grandchildren, Una Stephens and Corey Stephens.
Stephens said many people know her father from his years working for the City of Milledgeville, a career that he stayed in until his retirement.
“He was the building inspector for the City of Milledgeville. That began in 1970,” said Stephens, adding that he was the first black man to hold that position in the city’s history.
Walker also left his mark on the local community in other ways.
“He was a contractor also,” said Stephens. “He built several houses in Baldwin County and surrounding counties.”
Stephens said her father has always been a hard worker. That spirit stayed with him well after retirement. She remembers a particular event a few years back in which her father showed his commitment to self-sufficiency.
“Not too long after my mom passed, a water pipe burst in his kitchen. There he was, in there with the mop, helping just as much as he could,” said Stephens. “He’s always been right there in the midst of doing whatever needs to be done.”
Walker spent many years active in his family’s church, serving as a deacon and teaching Sunday School.
“He’s just a devout Bible scholar. He knows the scriptures very well,” said Stephens. “Not only does he talk about it, but he lived the life before me.”
Stephens said her father has always relied heavily on his faith, especially during life’s trials, and that he raised her with the same mindset.
“He has just shared so much of his wisdom,” said Stephens. “He said, ‘The Lord’s not going to put no more on us than we can bear.’”
Longevity seems to run in Walker’s family. Walker’s sister passed away at age 98 in 2019, and his brother is still alive at age 101. His wife was 99 when she passed away four years ago.
With all of the restrictions necessary to protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19, Stephens said that she and her family have not gotten to visit her father in person this year nearly as much as they normally would. They have managed to fill in the gaps with chats on FaceTime, something Stephens said was very meaningful to her.
“The times we’ve been able to FaceTime have been awesome. He’s always been in this happy mood and keeps us laughing,” said Stephens. “He’s kept me encouraged during this time.”
Stephens said that she is thankful to have had so many years to garner wisdom from her father.
“I am very grateful and have taken his advice and have tried to live accordingly,” said Stephens. “Living in the moment, enjoying your life, taking care of yourself, just taking care of your family.”
Among those in attendance at the drive-thru celebration was City Manager Hank Griffeth. The two men chatted about Walker’s time working for the city, and Griffeth surprised Walker by telling him of the mayor’s plan to make an official proclamation recognizing Walker’s 103rd birthday.
Stephens credits Sharon Byner at Savannah Court for suggesting the parade as a safe and fun way to recognize her father’s birthday.
“We just felt that that would be most worthy so that he could see how the people really care about him,” said Stephens.
As she watched her father chatting with his grandchildren, Stephens felt he was right where he needed to be.
“Just look at him. The Lord has blessed him,” said Stephens. “He’s just an awesome person.”
As for Walker’s own thoughts on reaching such a momentous age, he is very pragmatic. When asked what it meant to him to celebrate the milestone among loved ones, his answer was simple.
“That I can witness it. That’s what it means to me,” said Walker. “I get to see it.”