Editor’s Note: Our regular Throwback Thursday feature is taking the form of “Wayback Wednesday” due to the Independence Day holiday. (There is no Thursday paper this week.) With the Fabulous Fourth events going on, we’re featuring an Athens woman who had quite the life and was once crowned the first Senior Citizen Queen back in 2013.
This story appears in the Wednesday, July 3 newspaper on Page A1.
There are certain subjects in which, for whatever reason, photographers cannot help but stop themselves and capture.
(Not that I would know, as a writer, but so photographers tell me.)
Violet Dalton was this way. In her 105 years, Violet made quite an impression with the local media. Few could resist capturing Violet sitting on the stoop of the Presbyterian Church on Court Street as she waited for the bus. With a smile and a good word, Violet was always happy to oblige.
She was born Violet Russell in Cleveland on Nov. 29, 1908. Her mother died when she was a child, so she moved to Athens to live with her grandmother, Mary Elizabeth “Molly” Campbell. They lived at the corner of Carpenter and Mound streets, near where a small park dedicated to Johnny Appleseed is now located.
Later interviewed by The Messenger upon turning 100 years old, Violet described her experiences growing up in Athens.
Those were more independent times. As a young child, Violet walked across town for school every day at Ohio University.
She told of watching cows and bulls being herded through the streets of town to a local slaughterhouse. One time Violet found herself rollerskating near the herd while wearing a red coat. Her mind quickly flashed to images of bullfighting, with matadors baiting animals with bright red capes. She dashed away to a nearby house and clunkily tried to climb the steps in her skates.
Violet went on to marry a local chef named Wade Dalton. The two did not have children, but once served as foster parents. Their house ended up becoming a popular hangout spot for all the neighborhood kids.
A devout woman, Violet was a member of the St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Athens for nine decades. In later years she was driven to church by a longtime friend, Anne Chonko. Younger members of the congregation loved Violet and it was not unusual for a throng of children to greet her with pats and kisses. Violet especially enjoyed church music and it was said she was the loudest singer in church.
At age 99, Violet moved to Hickory Creek Nursing Center in The Plains. She quickly made herself at home as one of its more social residents. She liked bingo, of course, and the frequent trips to the Athens Community Center.
As noted, Violet was featured in The Messenger in late 2008 upon turning 100 years old. Asked about her big birthday, she told a reporter: “I know that I’ll be 100, but I can hardly believe it. Once I turned 75, I just always thought of myself as that age. It just feels like I stayed 75.”
She showed up in The Messenger’s newspages again in the summer of 2013. This is when the Athens Fabulous Fourth organizing committee hosted its first annual Senior Citizen King and Queen competition. It has since been held each year as part of its Independence Day festivities. (This year’s event is held today from 3-5 p.m. inside the Mall on State Street.)
Violet, then 104, was by far the oldest of the six contestants. She was also the funniest — one question posed on stage asked what she would do if she was at an event was told her outfit was inappropriate.
Violet began to chuckle.
“Well, what can you do?”
This led to her being crowned the inaugural Senior Queen.
A few months later, she passed away shortly after her 105th birthday.
Violet Dalton surely made an impact on her family, church and community in those 105 years.