Robbie J. Sepolen has slowed down a bit these days, but she still enjoys returning to her hometown of Brownwood to visit the few relatives she hasn’t outlived and the children and grandchildren of lifelong friends.
The Houston resident, who is the oldest living graduate of Rufus Hardin High School in Brownwood, turned 105 on Aug. 7.
She and her daughter, Bobbie Slaughter, drove to Brownwood Saturday to spend the weekend. They plan to return to Houston today.
“That’s my church,” Slaughter said her mother said as they drove through the intersection of Beaver and Bailey to Emanuel Chapel United Methodist Church. “A lot has changed here, but she still recognizes her church.”
Sepolen’s hearing is weak, so she communicates with a note pad and pencil. But her mind is still sharp, her daughter said. She recognized several members of the congregation as being the grandchildren of members she had known decades ago.
Sepolen also enjoys traveling. While this is their first trip to Brownwood this year, they came twice in 2006. They also drive to Atlanta, Ga., to spend Thanksgiving with Slaughter’s grandchildren each year. And this summer, they went to San Antonio for a family reunion.
“She does pretty well in the car,” Slaughter said of her mother. “She has a few relatives in Brownwood, but she’s outlived most of them.”
She has also outlived her husband, John, a Brownwood man to whom she was married in 1921, and their two sons. All three died of heart disease when they approximately 50.
“But on her mother’s side, all the women have great longevity,” Slaughter said. “Many lived to their 80s or 90s.”
Slaughter herself apparently inherited those genetics.
“People are always looking at Mother, and saying, ‘If she’s 105, how old are you?’ I tell them I was her youngest child, but she wasn’t 50 when she had me. They can figure it out.”
Friends at church said Slaughter is in her 80s.
But Slaughter agreed that she is fortunate to have the health that allows her to keep her mother living in her home, a situation she says helps keep her alert even though she’s not as active as she has been.
Sepolen was born in 1902 in Lampasas and graduated from what most Brown County residents now know as R.F. Hardin High School when it was still Brownwood Colored High School. She attended two years at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, planning to get a bachelor’s degree in education, but she had to leave college with only a teaching certificate when her father died. She returned to Brownwood and taught at Hardin until she started her own family.
She worked in the home for two decades, and then went to work for the Brownwood school district as a teacher’s aide in special education. When she retired, she moved to California to be with her mother.
In 1990, Sepolen moved to Houston to live with Slaughter, a teacher as well. Since retiring, in both California and Houston, Slaughter said her mother has kept busy at senior citizens centers helping with arts and crafts and preparing gift packages for military personnel.