A century’s worth of fun

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tuesday was a special day for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy students. It was the 100th day of the school year, and many of the school’s elementary students welcomed a visitor who had also passed her own century mark.

Anna Hopkins, the 100-year-old, great-grandmother of NSA first-grader Elise Barbour, was brought to the Harbour View campus from Commonwealth Senior Living at the Ballentine in Norfolk. She was joined by members of her family, including her granddaughter, Kristin Barbour, her son, Ralph Hopkins Jr., and daughter-in-law, Kathy Hopkins.

Hopkins thought she was just coming to say hi but instead got to share her stories with dozens of students from kindergarten to third grade, who had plenty of gifts for her.

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“My grandson once said I was older than the trees,” Hopkins joked. “I guess I am older than some trees.”

First-grade teacher Dana Thompson organized the visit after she first heard that Elise’s great-grandmother turned 100 in the fall.

“I thought about how special it would be for her to come in and share her memories, and for her to talk about how schools and life have changed,” Thompson said. “It’s something our students may never experience again, meeting someone that’s 100.”

Elise enjoyed the extra time with her great-grandmother. The two are typically together for the holidays, or when they go to find seashells at the beach, which is one of her great-grandmother’s favorite places.

“She tells funny stories,” Elise said.

Hopkins was born Nov. 13, 1917. She described to the students her family’s first black-and-white TV and her childhood school, where all the students up to the seventh grade shared one small room.

“I’m still wondering what it was like when she was a kid,” said first-grader Gavin Harnish, 6.

Hopkins talked about her childhood travels on her father’s boat, which hauled grain and tomatoes from Chestertown, Md., to Baltimore along the Eastern Shore. She said she learned to swim by being tugged behind the boat.

The kids were reasonably surprised by many of the details of her childhood. It seemed odd to some of them how few conveniences she had compared to what they enjoy today.

“I didn’t know that they only had a little bit of sports, but now we have a lot,” said first grader Aubrey Jewell, 6.

The children sang “You Are My Sunshine” to the delight of Hopkins. Then the first-graders stood up to sing “Three Little Fishies,” a song she knew quite well.

“I’m 100 years old, but I remember we sang that same song,” she said.

The children gave her a vase of flowers, heart-shaped pillows in bright colors and a big, pink card covered in “thank yous” written by the students.

“I feel very honored and amazed,” Hopkins said.

She was especially amazed by how well behaved the students were.

“These teachers need applause,” she laughed.