Still Cooking at 103, Adventist Julia Bethea Embraces Health Message
Born when Theodore Roosevelt was president, she’s lived to see 18 others

BY DE WITT WILLIAMS, Ed.D., M.P.H., C.H.E.S.

A103-year-old Seventh-day Adventist credits the church’s lifestyle emphasis with helping her to live an active life decades longer than many Americans live at all.

Julia Bethea, of Huntsville, Alabama, is a petite and vibrant woman. She lives on her own, cooks her own meals, and works in her garden. To make her own meals, she searches for ideas on the Internet: “I like to fool with recipes for a hobby. I just got a computer, and I am learning how to look up recipes on it,” she said.

 

ACTIVE ADVENTIST: Julia Bethea, 103, an active Seventh-day Adventist, credits the health message with her longevity and fitness. [Family Photo.]
“I was born in Coy, Alabama, on July 25, 1907, the youngest of seven children,” she said in a recent conversation. “I’ve been an Adventist for 50 years and a vegan for 10. I never thought I would live this long, but I’m glad the Lord spared me.”

She added, “I don’t take any prescription medicine, but I do use herbs and things like garlic. I exercise a lot: I use the treadmill and dumbbells, and I walk up and down the road and in the house.

“I wasn’t always a vegan,” Bethea admits. “I used to gobble up anything if it tasted good, but as I learned better I became a vegetarian. I keep my head in health books and study Mrs. [Ellen G.] White’s writings. I don’t have any favorite dishes or recipes. Yes, I still cook for myself—from scratch. If somebody brings me a recipe, I’ll fix it up. I take cashew nuts and make cheese out of them. I cooked my Sabbath meal for today. I cook everything I eat.”

Such a schedule for one who’s lived more than a century might seem daunting, but Julia Bethea has long held a strong work ethic: “When I was young, all I knew was how to work,” she explained. “I helped my husband build a house. I laid blocks and mixed cement. I worked until I was 89 in domestic work. I pay my own bills, and I do whatever needs to be done. I come to church every Sabbath and most times Wednesday night prayer meeting.”

As Julia noted, she wasn’t always a Seventh-day Adventist, but a chance encounter changed all that: “Years ago my brother-in-law worked at a factory in Detroit, and there was a college student standing there selling Message magazines. I think they were 25 cents then. In the back of the magazine was a Bible correspondence course. My sister started taking this correspondence course and found out about Seventh-day Adventists. The more she read, the more she was convinced it was the right way, and she soon joined the church. I didn’t join at the same time.

I wanted to read for myself. Later on, [the late] Elder R. T. Hudson baptized me in an effort in Cleveland. When I came in, my three children came in with their children. And all of that resulted from a young girl selling Message magazines. I wish I knew who she was. We bought it just to help her, but she helped us find the Lord and our church.”

Not only did Bethea’s children join the Adventist family; the faith has been passed on to succeeding generations. Curtis Eakins, health ministries director for the South Central Conference, is her grandson, who says of Julia: “She does more than a woman half her age would do.”

What is Bethea’s wish for the future? “Well, my wish is that I will be saved by doing the Lord’s will. But my greatest wish is to see my friends and neighbors in the new earth.”

 


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