Her name is Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva. Today, February 10, 2009, she reaches the milestone of 104 years of age. If we could string together a multitude of adjectives of a positive nature to describe this centenarian-plus, we could not come close to telling of her broad influence as a teacher, church woman, community worker, advisor and friend.
Saturday, February 7 from 2:00 to 4:00 p. m., relatives and friends gathered at Choestoe Baptist Church to celebrate the milestone of her 104th birthday. All the crowd who attended came bearing love and praise for this influential woman who has been blessed with beauty, compassion, wisdom and long life.
Happy Birthday, Aunt Dora! Whether you are aunt-kin to us or not, you hold this honorable title, gifted to you because God has granted you long life and a gracious spirit. We came from far and near on February 7 to say "thank you" and "you were a great influence on my life."
Just who is Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva?
First, let's look at her family roots. She was born on February 10, 1905 to James A. Hunter (1847-1912) and Martha Souther Hunter (1867-1937). She was the first-born of James A., but Martha had been married previously to James's brother, Jasper F. Hunter (1863-1897), also known as "Todd." To them had been born seven children: John Esther, William Jesse, Nancy, James Hayes, Francis Homer, Hattie and Jasper Grady. These first children of Martha ranged in age from 13 to a baby when Todd died in 1897.
Stepping up later like an Old Testament patriarch, James A. Hunter married his brother's widow and began to help his dear wife with his nieces and nephews who became his own children. To Martha and James were born Dora Anne (1905), Joseph D. (1906) and Daniel (1907), bringing the number of Hunter children to ten. James Hunter's parents were William Johnson Hunter (1813-1893) and Martha England Hunter (1819-1897). Martha's parents were John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (1829-1888). Family ties on "all sides" stem back to early settlers in the Choestoe District with names written in the annals of that area's history: John and Elizabeth Hunter, John and Mary Combs Souther, Thompson and Celia Self Collins, and Daniel and Margaret Gwynn England, to name a few of Aunt Dora's early-settler ancestors.
James A. Hunter died in 1912 when Dora Anne was seven, Joe was not quite six, and Dan was not quite five. Her mother Martha somehow managed, with the older children helping on the farm, and the younger children, likewise, sharing their load of work as they grew up to the responsibilities of farm and family life.
Dora Hunter Allison was educated in the country schools, Old Liberty and Choestoe, whose excellent teachers managed to produce students that stood on their own wherever they went for subsequent education. She went on to Young Harris and became a teacher in the Blairsville Collegiate Institute in 1927 when she was twenty two. Her 40-year career as a mathematics teacher, principal and counselor was mainly in the Union County Schools where she distinguished herself as an apt and caring teacher and one well-beloved by all her students. She continued her own education, earning degrees from Young Harris, Piedmont and the University of Georgia.
In Choestoe Baptist Church where she has been and still is an active member, she was one of the founders of Woman's Missionary Union, served as a teacher in Sunday School, known for her knowledge of the Bible, and as Superintendent of the Sunday School even in the days before women took active roles in the major leadership of the church. She has been active in Georgia's Woman's Missionary Union, serving in past years on the Board as Divisional Vice-President. When telling her niece, Doris Hunter Souther, what her main wish for her birthday is, she said, "I would wish, before I go, that the indebtedness on Choestoe's Family Life Center can be paid." And so, on Saturday, people honored her by making a donation to that cause which is dear to her heart.
To honor this stately lady, Truett McConnell College in nearby Cleveland, Georgia, which she worked actively to establish in 1946 when her pastor at that time, the Rev. Claud Boynton, served on the first Board of Trustees, the college has named a division the Dora Hunter Allison Spiva School of Education. The first four year graduates in education are now serving in schools, a continuing tribute to this notable teacher who has touched so many lives. Donations can be made in her honor to further equip and endow this School of Education which will be touching lives and training teachers for many years to come.
And the beat goes on. A great life is like a widening ripple. It touches deeply where the impact is first made, but it circles outward to reach far beyond the initial target in an ever-widening circle.
Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva, you have had great impact on so many touched by your caring nature and your dynamic personality, your ability to teach and your dedication to leadership. Saturday's party was beautiful, with her friends from the Blairsville Garden Club (which she helped to found years ago) making attractive decorations for every table and even the "throne-like" place where she sat. The food prepared by her fellow church members was exquisite and tasty, and the huge birthday cake fashioned by Judy Hood Rogers was a lovely centerpiece enjoyed by all. But Dora herself was definitely the center of attention and attraction--amazing, delightful Dora!
Thank you is too small a word to wish you a wonderful 104th birthday! But we do thank you. You did make more difference in our lives than you will ever know.
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published February 12, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.