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Share Your Story: Bristol resident celebrates 105th birthday

March 17th, 2014 9:27 am by Tim Buchanan, Community Contributor

Share Your Story: Bristol resident celebrates 105th birthday

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- There was reason to celebrate at Broadmore Senior Living with the birthday of their oldest resident. A resident since 2011, Zella Moretz Roberts was honored for her 105th birthday at the assisted living community in Bristol. Her birthday was acknowledged not only by her family and peers, but also by her hometown where the Bristol Tennessee City Council bestowed on her a key to the city. BTN, the cities' television network, also did an interview that will be broadcast in the near future.

The emcee for the birthday celebration was Tim Buchanan, who told of significant events that occurred in Bristol in 1909, the year in which Ms. Roberts was born. He stated that this year was "the most significant year in Bristol's development." From the completion of the old YMCA on Shelby Street and the Bristol Virginia City Hall, the grading and paving of State Street, and the beginning of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, 1909 was a banner year.

She's been asked for years what she attributes her long life to, and she's responded "the blessing of God and good genes," but there must be even more to the story, according to Buchanan. He quipped that IF she was born a day later, in a leap year, we could be celebrating her 79th birthday, which could give credence to her youthful appearance, looking 25 or 30 years younger than 105.

Zella Moretz was born on Feb. 28, 1909, a cold Sunday morning, in Meat Camp, N.C., to Eugene and Dora Hartley Moretz. She was the seventh child, and would eventually welcome three more brothers into the family.

In those days, Meat Camp, N.C., remained somewhat isolated. The majority of one's family needs were met through self-reliance and hard work. All family food was grown in the gardens, or raised on the farm, most all clothing and furniture was made at home. Only absolute necessities were bought from one of two stores in the community. Often, Eugene, Zella's father, would make caskets for deceased community members. And with medicinal remedies of gathered roots, herbs and barks, her mother Dora not only doctored her own family but tended neighbors as well.

In the late 1920s, Zella went to work at the Green Inn, on King Street, in Boone. She moved to High Point in the early 1930s and worked in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Harry Lyndon Brockmann for several years. At the urging of her brothers, she moved to Bristol in 1936 and on April 2, 1938, she married Russell Butler Roberts.

After Butler's death in 1993, she continued living in the home they built, doing her own housework and driving around town for errands. In September 2011, she moved to Broadmore Senior Living in Bristol. Here, she found many new friends and activities, and is lovingly cared for by the staff.

Zella has always inspired her family and friends with her many talents, physical stamina, a willingness to help others, and her "can do" attitude. With more than 45 nieces and nephews and hundreds of great and great-great nieces and nephews across the county, there is constantly a family member coming through the doors at Broadmore looking for "Aunt Zella."

The community can send birthday wishes to: Zella Moretz Roberts, Broadmore Senior Living, 826 Meadowview Road, Bristol, Va., 24201.

Share Your Story features stories written and contributed by our readers. Today's featured story and the accompanying photos were submitted by Tim Buchanan. He is the community relations director at Broadmore Senior Living at Bristol. If you'd like to submit your story for consideration, email it to: with Share Your Story in the subject line.

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