Flora Blackman turned 91years young last week.

Flora Blackman turned 91years young last week.

Blackman celebrated her birthday in her favorite place: surrounded by children at Wewahitchka Elementary School.

Principal Jay Bidwell interrupted Larry Brown’s class alongside members of the school board and principal designee Renee Lynn to thank Blackman for the more than 15 years of volunteer work with the schools and community.

Most of her volunteer time is spent in Brown’s classroom where he teaches a special needs mixed class that ranges in grades from kindergarten through fourth.

Bidwell presented Blackman with a plaque to show appreciation for her dedication of service to the youth of Gulf County.

“I’m honored and surprised,” said Blackman. “God had a purpose for me, and the purpose is these children.

“That’s what keeps me alive.”

Brown, who Blackman refers to as her “boyfriend,” presented the birthday girl with a stack of drawings by students in the class, each with a message of love for her.

“You can tell that the students adore her,” said Bidwell. “She’s a force in every child’s life.

“What better to do with your life than help kids?”

Not one to slow down, Blackman also helps organize an annual Easter bake sale and is heavily involved in Valentines and Thanksgiving events held at the school.

Blackman has been a presence in Brown’s class for more than a decade, interacting with children and in some cases becoming a surrogate grandmother.

“We see her come in year after year,” said Lynn. “She’s so wonderful.

“She’s dedicated and gives the students a grandmother that they may not have.”

To most of the community, Blackman is best known for the table outside of Rich’s IGA where she can regularly be found selling raffle tickets and bake sale items.

What passersby may not realize is that the money she collects goes right back into the community.

Each year Blackman raises more than $1,500 which is then given away to students in three $500 scholarships. Always happy to help those in need, Blackman purchased gifts for 87 children during the Christmas holidays.

Bidwell commended Blackman on the achievement and said that he found the amount of change she experienced in her life “impressive.”

“When you’re 90 years old, you remember everything that happened when you were a little girl, but you can’t remember what happened yesterday,” laughed Blackman.

After singing a round of “Happy Birthday,” the class was treated to cake in Blackman’s honor.

Before posing for a photograph with the students, Blackman had only one request:

“Make me beautiful,” she smiled.

Even on her birthday, Blackman continued to give back and took time to offer up life advice to the youngsters in the room.

“Make a memory while you’re little,” said Blackman. “Everyone needs a memory.”