Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Autie Walker attended a Braves game in celebration of her 100th year.
Cheering for Chipper at 100
Great-great granny pulls for the Braves
By Ronnie Thomas
Sitting among 13 family members two weeks ago at Atlanta’s Turner Field, a Decatur woman missed the greeting that scrolled in blue lights across the stadium’s electronic message board: “Happy 100th Birthday Autie Walker.”
But she got the full view of her face when it flashed on the huge JumboTron.
“Oh, my goodness,” she said. “My mouth was wide open.”
That was probably because she was cheering the Braves, her favorite team, to rally during a 9-1 drubbing by the Chicago Cubs.
“She had a wonderful time,” said her granddaughter Susan Walker Goicoof Decatur, Ga., who planned the trip. The group included Walker’s daughter, FolmaAdams of Montgomery, three other granddaughters, six great-grandchildren and other family.
Although she has been an avid fan for the past three decades, following the team religiously on television, Walker was making only her third trip to Turner Field, all after she turned 95.
It mattered little to Atlanta officials that the greeting was a belated one. They’d like more fans like her. They know they come at a premium.
“I used to not like baseball. It was too slow,” she said. “But I guess I slowed down with it.”
As fans got nowhere with their tomahawk chop, the Braves continued to treat her royally. They gave her two caps, a Chipper Jones T-shirt, and figurines of the third baseman and pitcher John Smoltz.
“They’re my favorite players, along with center fielder Andruw Jones,” Walker said.
After the game, ushers escorted her and her party down for a good view of the fireworks display.
“I was so happy to be there, with my family and all the fans,” she said. “I prefer the stadium more than television because of the atmosphere. Last year, I saw Smoltz beat the Mets. I believe he went all nine innings.”
She celebrated her birthday April 28 with a party at the Decatur home where she lives with her son, retired pediatrician William A. Walker, and his wife, Nelda. All 47 of her living descendants came, down to two great-great-grandchildren.
Born on a farm in Marion County, she attended Hackleburg High School but dropped out at 16 to marry. She spent her earlier years devoted to football, basketball and baseball, sports that her husband, Alfred C. Walker, coached in high school before he entered administrative work in 1936. He died at 58 in 1963.
“During that time, I guess I liked the faster action of those sports, when I could keep up with them,” she said.
Also an Auburn fan
Autie Walker said she is a big Auburn fan “because my three brothers and three children went to Auburn. And my husband, who graduated at Birmingham Southern in 1929, got his master’s degree there.”
So that she’ll have no trouble keeping up with her beloved Braves, William Walker laminated a schedule from The Daily.
She has a television in her room and keeps the schedule by her chair. When she travels, it’s secure in the bottom of her suitcase.
She also has a TV in her room at her daughter’s home and at the home of her other son in Atlanta, Alfred C. Walker Jr., who retired as a dental instructor at Emory University.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Autie Walker’s favorite Braves are John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones.
Wherever she goes — she is now on vacation in New Mexico — Autie Walker gets around with ease. She doesn’t own a wheelchair or a walker.
“I don’t like to use a cane,” she said, “but I do it sometimes because others think I might fall.”
She has lived in Decatur since 1969 and until 20 months ago, resided alone in an apartment.
“When people ask me why I’ve lived so long, I’ve always said it’s because of work,” she said. “I’ve also taken a lot of exercise. I walked every morning for years. And I just love people.”
William Walker said his mother was always more interested in others than herself.
“She is the most unselfish, modest, self-effacing and unpretentious person I’ve ever known,” he said.
“She’s a wonderful momma,” said Alfred Jr. “Her mental capabilities are just unbelievable for someone her age.”
Pulling for Hudson
Meanwhile, the games go on. Recently, while watching the Braves play the Boston Red Sox in the den of William Walker’s home, she took special note of the Atlanta pitcher, Tim Hudson.
“He’s good, too,” she said. “And he’s an Auburn man, you know.”
The BoSox blanked the Braves, 4-0. But Walker isn’t worried. She believes Andruw Jones and the rest of the team will break out of their slumps in time.
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