Mildred Sargent has lived every minute of her nearly 102 years to the fullest. Born Mildred Elizabeth Clark in East Atlanta, she was the oldest of five siblings. While her father was working as a policeman, he was pinned between two streetcars, ending his law enforcement career. When she was eight, the family bought a 40-acre dairy farm, and ran a full operation for one year. When pasteurization shut down many small dairies, Mildred’s family converted to vegetable farming, selling tomatoes, beans, onions, and more from their truck.
“We walked two and eight-tenths miles each way every day to school and oh! My legs would ache. We worked on the farm planting and harvesting the crops when we got home.” Mildred recalls. “We would pick the watercress that grew wild on the creek. Our house burned down and we built another one. We never had much but we always found ways to have fun. Our parents insured we had food and clothing and encouraged our education and hard work.”
In school Mildred excelled, winning the state spelling bee and Latin awards and earning a scholarship to Agnes Scott College. She majored in English and served as the assistant make-up editor for the school paper, back when papers had to be physically pasted together or “made up” before printing. She was in the poetry club and named class poet. Mildred taught elementary school in Fulton County for four years and junior high for two years in New York. She left teaching and began her 39 year career with Civil Service. Her jobs as proofreader, editor and education specialist led her to positions in Washington, D.C., New York, Texas and Florida. She says one of the highlights of her career was her 20 months spent in Nuremberg, Germany, working with the post WWII Nuremburg Trials and travelling throughout Europe.
Mildred married James Sargent, a veteran WWII Army Air Corps officer. She says of their 51 years together, “We had a lot of fun. We saw a lot and did a lot and we really lived!”
Mildred has always put her thoughts and ideas down in writing. She has continued writing poems throughout her life. Many of her poems have been published in newspapers such as the New York Times. In celebration of her 100th birthday, she published her poetry book, Country Girl.
Often Mildred reminisces about her life and is amazed at the things that have stayed the same, such as Hershey Bars, ice cream and chewing gum. She marvels at the variety of automobiles and new inventions such as cell phones and computers.
Her advice for student success: If you want to improve schools, make smaller classes with fewer students. The best experience I had was working with small groups of children who had been temporarily isolated for medical reasons. Those kids really learned – and I did too!
Wise words: Follow your dreams, make the most of your youth, be happy and be kind.