Members of the Calhoun Church (Calhoun, Ga.) hosted a birthday for member Jerline Porch on Oct. 6.
Ninety-nine years is a long lifetime—and all of it has been lived in Gordon County. Jerline was born to Jesse Washington Mann and Ida Shepherd Mann on Oct. 11, 1914. As the seventh of 12 children, her life provided constant interest.
Reared on a farm, working in the fields, she learned good work ethics and a labor-intensive life. She started teaching other students before she completed seventh grade, and as an adult, “a committee of three came to me requesting that I restart a school for Black children in Sonoraville that closed down 50 years previously.” She did—with no degree. She often performed nursing duties such as helping deliver babies and caring for the sick. She still gets tears in her eyes when speaking of a baby sister and a brother who had typhoid fever.
“I also operated on cats and chickens,” she said, chuckling.
Again, no degree for her nursing smarts. Over the years, she even worked as a truck driver.
Through it all, she sang songs like “Amazing Grace” and other “back yonder” songs, she said.
“We sang in the field while chopping cotton.”
Singing runs in her family. She still sings around the house and recently sang at church for a women’s ministries program. She notes kin as outstanding singers.
“A cousin of my Papa, Roland Hayes, was well-known, the world’s highest paid tenor in the 1920s. And Papa’s brother was a good baritone.”
As a young woman of 20, she met a young man of 22, Horace Porch.
“I didn’t invite him to come visit, but he kept coming,” she said.
His insistence paid off, and a year later they married, becoming parents to four children, with two sons still surviving. Again, tears fill her eyes whenever speaking of her late husband and the loss of their two children.
“He could build anything from the ground up,” she said of Horace. She lost him “after 48 years, two months, and three days.”
Regardless of her many years, her progeny is small: one granddaughter, one grandson. No greats or great-greats.
Jerline still keeps a garden, but it’s bucket gardening these days, as she grows tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and cantaloupes for starters. And her favorite crop: herbs. Her doctor once told her, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but whatever it is, keep doing it.” She maintains that God and the herbs get the credit.
Jerline keeps herself busy with various hobbies. She enjoys growing flowers—roses being her favorite—and is known around Calhoun for wearing pretty chapeaus, most of which she creates herself.
“I’ve always liked hats since I was a little girl,” she said.
Though several of her close relatives have lived well into their nineties, Jerline said she never thought she’d live to be 99. She notes that her heritage is Cherokee and Black on her father’s side, and Cherokee and White on her mother’s side.
When asked what she’d say to God about allowing her to have such a long life, she brightens and replies, “I’d thank Him and ask Him if I’ve done what He wanted me to do. And ask Him to forgive me for my sins.”
Written by Betty Kossick