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Cecil Ellison is a walking history book. The residents and staff at New Horizons Assisted Living Center helped him celebrate his 100th birthday last Thursday with cake and ice cream. Retired from the ministry, Ellison has been a resident at New Horizons since October 2007.
Ellison was born Sept. 2, 1910 in Casey County, Ky., “at a little crossroads called Mt. Olive, Ky., about 60 miles out of Liberty,” he said.
William Howard Taft was in the White House. Workmen in Belfast, Ireland were a year-and-a-half away from finishing the Titanic. Trouble was brewing in Europe that would lead to the outbreak of the first world war in 1914. The automobile and aircraft industries were pioneering new methods of transportation.
In 1910 in Casey County, “there were very few automobiles in the whole area,” he said. “I think there were two people there who had an old Model T. Everybody was still farming with animals.”
When Ellison was 7 years old, the family moved to Yosemite, Ky. He first attended school at Middleburg, Ky.
“That was almost a twin town to Yosemite,” he said. “They’re about four miles apart. When I went to school they had the old slate blackboard. And I remember very well one evening when we were dismissed the teacher asked for us to stay in the class. And he had us to go back to the old slate blackboard and write ‘Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States’ 12 times.”
It is remarkable to consider that 18 presidents have lived in the White House during Ellison’s lifetime. Man has gone from flying rickety biplane to landing men on the moon and spacecraft on other planets. Such traumatic events as the Great Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the second world war that followed, the John F. Kennedy assassination and the terrorist bombings of Sept. 11, 2001 have all occurred in the 100-year timeline of his life.
When his mother died in 1926, Ellison went to live with a sister in Cincinnati, Ohio. While there he finished elementary school. A significant event occurred in 1930 that dictated his direction for the remainder of his life.
“I went with my sister to a revival meeting on McMacon and Walnut Streets in Cincinnati, and it was there that I personally committed to my Lord and Savior,” he said. “I started in at Apostolic Bible Institute for a year and then I went to night school about five months. I had to do that because I lacked funds. I took lessons through the mail with ABI, which was located in St. Paul, Minn. Then at God’s Bible School I finished up there in the Cincinnati.”
The Rev. Ellison served as pastor of a church in Ohio for a few months before accepting a pastorate in Columbus, Ind., where he served for a little more than a year. During his ministry at Columbus he was invited to hold a revival where he met his future wife, Mabel Kress, of Napoleon, Ind. Mabel was of German descent and her father spoke fluent German.
“I held a revival in Greensburg,” he said. “She and her brother attended that revival and that’s the way I met her.”
They were married on Sept. 17, 1931. Not long afterward they moved to Carrollton where Rev. Ellison became pastor of the First Apostolic Church on Third Street. Cecil and Mabel were married nearly 68 years before her passing in March, 1999. They had four children--two boys and two girls--all of whom survive. He has six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.
“I have a wonderful family,” he says.
People all over the United States were struggling in the 1930s with the economic crisis known as the Great Depression, he said. The situation in Carrollton was equally critical. Ellison recalls the town being full of “a lot of hungry people.” Asked who suffered the most, people living in town or out on the farms, he said “probably the people living in town. But it was pretty rough out and in.”
Floods are always a concern for residents in a riverside community and Rev. Ellison has experienced his share of floods.
“I was in the ’37 flood. I was in the ’42 flood. I was in the ’45 flood. I was in the ’64 flood,” he said. “In 1937, at my home all that was sticking out of the water was the chimney, that was at the upper end of Main Street—just the chimney showing. Our home survived alright.”
He recalls the event as personally a very rough time because, not only was his home flooded, his oldest daughter was very ill.
“My oldest daughter was just about two or three years old. She had double pneumonia at that time and we had that to worry with, plus the water and getting people out of the water and feeding people that were hungry. It was a very distressed time.”
He recalls boats going up and down Main Street, “and the signs that were hanging out in front of the stores the water was just barely touching some of them—about 10 to 14 feet of water up on Main Street. They took boats through the courthouse. I saw that happen.”
In 1938, he and the members of his flock built a new church structure on Third Street that is still in use today. He recalls that concrete blocks sold for eight cents each at the time. He remained as pastor of the church for about 65 years, finally retiring in 1995.
Asked to name one event of significance during his lifetime that stands out over all others, he struggled for an answer. “If I pick out one thing then I think of something else that’s just as significant,” he said. “I guess pastoring a church for more than 60 years would be an outstanding thing, same church for all those years, wouldn’t it?”
During the second world war, Ellison was exempted from the military due to serving as a pastor with a young family.
“That was a very traumatic time,” he says of the war years, “very much so. Boy, that’s turning out to be a lot of history, isn’t it?” he asked.
Ellison moved to New Horizons—a facility he calls “a wonderful home”—in October, 2007. His health is good because “I exercise quite a lot,” he said. “I walk a mile a day now. Before my wife died 11 years ago I walked two miles a day but I’ve cut down to a mile now.”
In recent months his vision has declined to where he can no longer read.
“I weep over that,” he said, “because I love my Bible. I love to read.”
Asked his advice on how to live to be 100 Ellison answered with a quote from the Bible.
“Well, there’s a scripture in the Old Testament in the book of Ecclesiastes (chapter 12, verse 13) that says ‘fear God and keep His commandments,’ ” he said. “I believe that would cover a lot.”