100-year-old voter shares advice ahead of election, names favorite president in her lifetime
CHESTERFIELD – Mabel Cook is older than the right to vote, and in advance of her 101st birthday on Oct. 28, she exercised that right.
Last week, the still-spry centenarian cast the 15th presidential vote of a lifetime that has spanned 18 chief executives. That string began with a ballot for Franklin D. Roosevelt and has continued ever since. The only reason she did not vote for the other four — Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover — was because she was just too young.
Now, at her advanced age, Cook is living up to her maiden name — Duty — by doing her civic duty and voting.
“I feel it is very important for people to vote,” said Cook. “And, those that don’t vote have no right to complain, because they should have helped a little bit by voting.”
Even though it was not officially added to the Constitution until 1920, the proposal to give women voting power was born in Congress in 1919 five months before Mabel Dorothy Duty was born on a farm in Russell County, Va.
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“Mabel was the third out of 11 siblings,” said her daughter Joyce Boyd of Chesterfield.
Of the 11, Cook and two “baby” sisters are still living — a 94-year-old out in Abingdon and another in her 80s down in Atlanta.”
About three months shy of when Cook turned one, the 19th Amendment was adopted on Aug. 18th, 1920.
Less than two weeks before turning 101, Cook happily cast her ballot in the presence of a portion of her four children, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
“There have been 18 presidents during her lifetime starting with Woodrow Wilson, and she’s voted for 14 of them,” said Boyd.
According to Cook, she has voted for the following presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt [D], Harry S. Truman [D], Dwight D. Eisenhower [R], John F. Kennedy [D], Lyndon B. Johnson [D], Richard Nixon [R], Gerald Ford [R], Jimmy Carter [D], Ronald Reagan [R], George H. W. Bush [R], Bill Clinton [D], George W. Bush [R], Barack Obama [D], Donald Trump [R].
“I thought Eisenhower was a great president,” said Cook.
“Her dad admired him and had a picture of him on the wall,” said Boyd.
Does she favor one party over another? “I vote for who I think is going to do a good job,” said Cook.
“Sometimes I feel as if my dad would shoot me for voting Democrat,” added Cook wittingly.
Are there memorable elections she can recall? “After the Depression, of course, America was having debt and Hoover didn’t owe anything…I understand… as we do now,” said Cook. “It’s hard living in a Depression. We lived on a farm and had plenty to eat. God gave us all a good life.”
She tells her grandchildren and children to make informed decisions at the polls.
“You know…nowadays children are smarter than when we were little,” said Cook. “They know everything; they know more than I do.
“I would tell them to listen to the debates and decide who they think will do the best job,” said Cook.
“She’s excited to be alive and be able to go out and vote,” commented Boyd.
“I may not be around for four more years,” said Cook. “So, I’ll take advantage of today.”
The chairwoman of the Chesterfield County Electoral Board explained curbside voting.
“Curbside voting is available to anyone 65-years and older or who has a disability,” said Susan Beals. “Voters pull up to the orange cones at the Registrar’s Office, we’ll take your I.D., we’ll ask you to state your name and address, we’ll go inside and check you into the poll book, we’ll bring you out a ballot, you mark it, we take it inside and feed it into the scanner, and we’ll bring you an “I voted” sticker.”
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 known as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history happened in Cook’s lifetime. She said she worries about the current coronavirus pandemic.
“Oh, yes. I’m concerned because I understand it’s very dangerous,” said Cook. “I have been taking a flu shot for some time now. I’m not afraid of taking on the regular flu, but they say this one is so much worse. We don’t know until we try it, and I hope I don’t have to try.
“My mother believed in making all kinds of teas for colds and the flu,” said Cook. “Some of it tasted terrible. We always had to drink it whether it was good or bad, but they helped 90% of the time.
“If my mother was living today, she’d be making us all kinds of hot tea,” added Cook. “She’d make this one called boneset tea that was really bitter. I called it a weed.”
Cook said she knows what she is looking for in a president these days. “I don’t want him to raise taxes. Lower the taxes, and see that the price of medicine goes down,” she said. “There are too many sick people that can’t afford the medicine.
The big moment arrived.
Cook did not have her reading glasses so her grandson Curtis Litton of Kingsport, Tennessee visiting on vacation signed an ‘assistance form’ which allowed him to help her vote.
“Are you ready young lady,” said Litton to his Grandma. “It’s your time to vote.”
Cook’s grandson read the list of candidates to her and filled in her choices.
Curtis Litton had difficulty pronouncing Spanberger and Freitas who are running for Congress, but his grandmother was familiar with the candidates.
Litton made his grandmother laugh when he said, “We can always write in Mickey Mouse if you choose.”
When finished, Curtis Litton handed the ballot to his grandmother without Beals touching it so there would not be any improprieties.
And her wish came true.
“Hey Granny, do you wanna walk in and carry it in for yourself, or do you want that lady to carry it in for you,” asked Curtis Litton. “I can get you in there if you want to go in there and put it in.”
“We’ll make it happen,” said Beals. “We can do it.”
The volunteers welcomed Cook into the poll room with a round of applause.
“In two weeks, she’ll be 101,” shared Curtis Litton. “She said she wanted to make sure she’s counted.”
“I’m proud of her,” said Registrar Office volunteer Rosa Johnson of Chesterfield. “She has a lot of wisdom and knowledge she could share with all of us.”
Each family member present had their phones ready to record the monumental moment.
Another round of applause broke out once Cook pushed the ballot in the machine.
You can reach reporter Kristi K. Higgins at [email protected] Follow her @KHiggins_PI.
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This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: 2020 election: 100-year-old votes for her 15th president