Viola Baldwin Gaines, who turns 90 years old next week, will celebrate her birthday via a zoom party! Her story is one of love, hope and inspiration. As her children say "she is the best mother any child could have. She has always been an inspiring spirit and the rock of her family." “It’s so great to be alive. I’ve survived two world wars, recessions, the civil rights movement and witnessed the first black president. I’ve truly seen it all!”, says the Scotland Neck North Carolina native. Born and raised on a farm during the great depression, Viola is the oldest of seven. Her late parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willis, owned the farm in Scotland Neck.
She started school two years later than normal at age 8 because school was far from home and her family had no vehicle. Viola, along with her siblings, walked to school. After graduating high school, she migrated to New York in her 20s where she worked the graveyard shift as a nurse’s aid at a local hospital. She met and fell in love with Bob Baldwin, a true Renaissance Man - musician, photographer and draftsman. Viola married Bob in early 1950s and they had four beautiful children. In the 1970s, Bob became suddenly ill and Viola became the primary provider for her family, caring for Bob and raising their children with only a high school education. Life, as her family knew it, changed drastically.
During these challenging times, Viola was strong, courageous and loving. Determined to further her education while working full-time and raising her family, she enrolled in college at age 50 and attended night school for ten years. She earned an associates degree in the late 1980s, followed by a degree of bachelor of science by the early 1990s. She later remarried Al Gaines (a civil rights activist, engineer and Tuskegee Airman) and enjoyed many years with Al until his passing in late 2008, literally one day before President Obama announced that he would invite Tuskegee Airmen and their guests to the inauguration in 2009. She was an invited White House guest in her late husband’s stead. Viola continues to stay active in her community and prior to her health scare last year, religiously attended her senior's events.
During a routine exam, she was diagnosed with a serious illness and had emergency surgery. Viola’s recovery at age 89 is a miracle. Her faith, love and support from family and months of rehabilitation are all a blessing. She started venturing out again until the stay-at-home orders were issued. Viola's children are blessed to celebrate their mother's 90th birthday and share her story. Viola is a vibrant lady indeed, who has instilled in her children, strong values, a zest for life and appreciation for family. Written by Viola’s Children.