She’s known for her round caramel cake, her sense of humor and her independence. She’s been around long enough to have seen a thing or two, and she’s willing to share (at least some) of what she’s experienced over her century of life.
Catherline (nicknamed “Lou Lou”) Sorrow will be 100 years old on April 7.
Sorrow still lives in her own home and drives herself to the beauty shop in Colbert she’s gone to for over 40 years once a week and to Ingles to shop for her groceries. After protests from her children and grandchildren, she did relent and give up driving to Athens for doctor’s appointments, relying instead on her family for transportation.
The oldest of four daughters (she also had four brothers) born to William and Erma Lou Allen, Sorrow grew up on the family’s large farm on Moon’s Grove Church Road. Sorrow’s daughter, Peggy Shumake, said the family was considered pretty well to do for the time, living in a large white clapboard farmhouse surrounded by acres and acres of land. Shumake said her mother’s current home is near where the old home place once sat.
“We worked just like the boys,” Sorrow said of life on the farm. “We walked along the fields throwing out mule and cow manure every spring to fertilize the field for the crops.”
She and her siblings attended school at the Ila school and rode the bus to and from the school house.
“Papa was a big farmer,” Sorrow said and he primarily grew cotton, corn and then some vegetables for their own use. The girls helped their mother “put up” or can the vegetables for winter time.
She and her family attended Moon’s Grove Baptist, just down the road from the farm and she still drives herself to church there most Sundays.
One day, while attending a baptism at a nearby swimming hole in Uncle Roy Rowe’s nearby pasture, she met a young man named Ben Taylor “B.T.” Sorrow, who was there with a friend.
Later, B.T. told her when he saw her he said to his friend, “I gotta’ check that out.”
“Well, he did, and we went together,” she said smiling.
Her family didn’t approve of her suitor at first, but she said he grew on them as time went by.
One day, B.T. asked her to marry him and she agreed, but they had to be sneaky about it since she knew her papa wouldn’t approve.
She said the night before the big day, she packed her clothes in a bag and threw them out her bedroom window, where her sister Irene was waiting to take them and put them in B.T.’s Ford T-Model (with a rumble seat).
The next morning, she got on the bus as usual and rode it to Ila, where B.T. was waiting, marriage license in hand.
That night, they spent their honeymoon with B.T.’s parents, who lived nearby. She was 18 years old.
Well, her papa forgave her (though he punished Irene the next day, making her carry all the wood into the house by herself) and allowed the newlyweds to move into a tenant house on the farm where they lived for the first few years of their marriage, while B.T. worked for her papa.
During that time their first child, a girl they named Shirley, was born. Sorrow said Shirley was a rambunctious child, full of life and good health, until she came down with pneumonia as a toddler and almost died. She said her mother-in-law saved Shirley’s life using a home remedy that consisted of boiling cottonseeds and onions together, then placing them in a bag around the child’s neck to help her breathe. Doctors came to the house to see her, shook their heads when they saw her improvement and told them to keep on doing what they were doing.
Shirley died in her late 50s of cancer, not long before she was to retire, Sorrow said.
Daughter Peggy was born next, after B.T. had gone to work for a lumber company. The family soon moved to a home on Old Hull Road where they lived for 37 years. During that time, they welcomed a third child, a son this time, named William.
Sorrow got a job in sewing plants where she worked for over 50 years.
“I worked in most of the plants around Athens at one time or another,” she said.
Eventually, they got a good offer from a business for their home on Old Hull Road and sold it, moving back to some land her father gave her, where they built the home she lives in today.
B.T. continued to work at the lumber company until he suffered a severe injury and was forced to retire. Sorrow continued to work until she was 68, when she finally retired to stay at home and care for B.T. who by that time had suffered a major stroke.
Sorrow said she cared for her husband, refusing to allow him to go into a nursing home. The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary with a party hosted by their kids and grandkids in their home.
They were married for 58 years until B.T.’s death in 1994.
Sorrow’s living room is filled with pictures of a life well-lived. Most of the pictures showcase not only her, her husband and their three children, but also numerous photos of her eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren.
“I’ve had a pretty good life and B.T. and I had a pretty good life together,” she said. And she’s also quick to say she isn’t quite ready for that life to be over.
Asked about her secret to such a long life, she said she takes a long nap every afternoon, sits up until midnight and gets up about 8 a.m. every morning, then cooks her own breakfast of eggs and grits.
“Every night when I go to bed, I pray and thank the Lord for my life and ask Him to allow me to live a few more years,” she said.
Recently, Peggy and William have talked to her about giving up her car — something she has flatly refused.
“William told her he’d take her keys,” Peggy said. “She replied, that’s OK she has five sets. He then said, well he’d take the car, and she replied she’d just go buy a new one. There’s really no arguing with her, but she has cut back on where she drives, at least.”
All of Sorrow’s siblings have passed on, except for one younger sister, Mary Jenkins, who lives close by and the two keep in touch regularly.
Her family is planning a big birthday celebration for her birthday. The party will be held in the Moon’s Grove Baptist Church fellowship hall on Saturday, April 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. and the community is welcome to attend.
Sorrow says she is baking and bringing one of her famous round caramel cake to the party, despite the fact that a large cake and other refreshments will be on hand.
After all, her caramel cakes are well-known.
“I bet there’s not many folks around Danielsville that haven’t eaten my round caramel cake,” she said.