Westlake resident Elizabeth (Lib) Webster celebrated her 100th birthday on May 10 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Webster had to celebrate her historic birthday in relative confinement because of the stay-at-home edict due to the virus.
However, ingenuity prevailed and at 2 p.m., nearly 40 relatives and friends paraded in cars past Webster, who sat in a wheelchair inside her home in Runk and Pratt at Smith Mountain Lake.
The cars made two laps, one going one way so that the people on one side of the car could wave and shout “Happy Birthday,” then the cars reversed direction so passengers on side of the car could do the same.
A few family members got out of their cars and put their hands to the window to honor their centenarian family member. Gifts, cards and flowers were abundant as were cheers and shouts of “Happy Birthday, Lib!”
Webster was born in Franklin County near Boones Mill, in the shadows of Cahas Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a youngster she went to public schools and enjoyed playing basketball. She said one thing she never did was learn to swim. She had two sisters and one brother and was the daughter of Susie and Lewis Keith Bussey. Her father worked at Arrington-Bussey Funeral Home, which was located on South Main Street near the hospital.
She married Paul Webster, a World War II veteran who is now deceased. The couple had no children. Paul and his brother ran Webster’s Food Center.
After graduating from Boones Mill High School, Webster attended National Business College in Roanoke. After graduation, she had a job waiting for her in downtown Rocky Mount at what was originally named People’s National Bank. Webster worked there for more than 40 years, rising to become senior vice president before retiring. She said she loved her work and found working with Federal Housing Administration loans to be especially rewarding.
Webster was active in her community, too, serving as organist at Boones Mill Christian Church and Rocky Mount Christian Church. She also sang in the choir at church and as a member of the Franklin County Chorus.
Pastor Matt Ricks of Rocky Mount Christian Church described Webster as “pretty self-sufficient, one of those ladies who never looked disheveled, always looked put together — a very classy lady.”
Webster also knitted blankets for newborn babies that she donated to the hospital and later to the Perinatal Education Center. Amy Pendleton, executive director of the Perinatal Education Center, said, “Those blankets got wrapped around a lot of little babies. She’s a sweetheart. She’d give, give, give.”
Ricks noted that she’d often be working on a blanket when he’d go to visit her.
Sheila Keatts has known Webster for more than 65 years.
“She and my mom were good friends,” Keatts said. “She’s a great lady, very sharp.”
Webster was also active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and in the hospital’s auxiliary. She and her husband also traveled a lot, going to England, France, New York, visiting 45 of the 50 states.
A typical day for Webster entails getting up at 6:30 a.m. and going to bed by 9:30 p.m. Her days include therapy programs and knitting.
How is it that she has lived to be 100?
“Live day by day,” she said. “I did the best I could. Don’t think about the future. It’s hard for me to realize I’ve been here that long.”
As she reflected on her birthday celebration that evening, Webster said, “It’s been a nice day.” She said she enjoyed the afternoon and now has many pictures and items to put up.
Among the visitors were family members, including Webster’s sister, Sue Wallace of Boones Mill, and nieces, Sue Ann Crane of North Carolina and Linda Wallace of Washington, D.C. Also attending the celebration was Webster’s former coworker Rita Thomas.