|Aubrey Kirkpatrick, a parishioner at St. Martha Church in Ashland City, turned 100 years old on Friday, Sept. 18. Photo by Andy Telli
On Sept. 18, St. Martha Church parishioner Aubrey Kirkpatrick turned 100 years old. His recipe for longevity? “The Good Lord just blessed me!” Kirkpatrick said.
He is a faithful man for sure, but has not always been a member of the Catholic Church. He was born into a Methodist family in Nashville, and converted to Catholicism in 1934 after marrying his first wife, Lucy.
“My wife was a very devout Catholic,” recalled Kirkpatrick. “I went with her to church, and became associated with all of her church friends. And I thought, ‘This is good, I’m gonna get in on this.’ So I’ve been in on it ever since!”
He’s a faithful friend, too. Kirkpatrick befriended Father Peter Quang Chau when he moved to the states from Vietnam in 1980 and became an associate pastor at St. Ann Church, replacing then Father David Choby – currently Bishop of Nashville – who was going to Rome to study.
“The first Sunday at St. Ann, Father Choby led me to visit all the homebound of St Ann that he visited every Sunday,” said Father Peter. “Aubrey Kirkpatrick’s wife, Lucy, was one of these homebound. I continued to visit Kirk’s wife, and we have been good friends since that day. It is 35 years now.”
“Father Peter came into our lives through the church,” said Kirkpatrick. “He’s been just like a father to me ever since. He has been here whenever we needed him, and when we don’t need him he’s here as well.”
When Lucy got ill, Kirkpatrick quit his job at the U.S. Post Office to stay home and take care of her, and, according to Father Peter, anyone else in the neighborhood who required assistance.
At the post office, Kirkpatrick repaired and refurbished wrecked mail vehicles, which kept him very busy. In his long life, he also worked in a grocery store, at Tennessee Enamel Company, and during the depression, at a bakery. “I’d go to work on Thursday, and come home on Saturday,” explained Kirkpatrick. “I made two dollars and 50 cents for it. That wasn’t an hourly rate – that’s what I got. And that was a big amount.”
He was also in the Seabees in the Navy – named after CB, or the Construction Battalion – during World War II, and served in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal, New Guinea, the Philippines and Samoa.
When Lucy passed away, Kirkpatrick married a woman named Billy. Unfortunately, Billy died of breast cancer just a few years later. Two years after that, Kirkpatrick married his current wife, Pauline.
“I’ve been married three times,” Kirkpatrick said. “All of us were in the same neighborhood in West Nashville, ran in the same crowd. We were all part of St. Ann’s parish. We were all so close knit together.”
Kirkpatrick does not have any natural children, but he has been blessed with three stepchildren and 12 step-grandchildren through his marriage to Pauline. “Bless their hearts, I love them all,” Kirkpatrick said.
Then there’s his “extended family.” Because of their relationship with Father Peter, Aubrey and Pauline became immersed in the Vietnamese community that has become a significant portion of St. Martha’s parish. “The Vietnamese people, we just took them into our home and loved every one of them,” said Kirkpatrick. “My wife took them under her wings. We just made a family out of all of them.
“I don’t speak a word of their language, and in the beginning, they didn’t speak any of ours,” continued Kirkpatrick. “But we had them in our home, and we understood each other. We made do with what we knew.”
That appreciation for the Vietnamese culture has influenced the way Kirkpatrick experiences his faith. He and Pauline are as likely to attend the St. Martha Vietnamese service at 11 a.m. on Sundays, as the English-language Mass.
Father Peter continued to accommodate that preference. On Sunday, Sept. 20, he celebrated a special Thanksgiving mass for Kirkpatrick’s centennial milestone, and then presented a lunch for Aubrey and Pauline in the rectory.
“I asked him, ‘Do you want to have that Mass be English or Vietnamese?’ And he said he loved the Vietnamese Mass,” Father Peter said. “So I ordered for him a Vietnamese ceremonial robe with head turban to use on this Thanksgiving Mass.”
No matter what language he receives the sacraments in, Kirkpatrick believes his strong faith has absolutely contributed to his endurance, the fact that he’s still driving, and, as Father Peter said, still has a “good mind and good spirit.”
Or, in Kirkpatrick’s own words, “The good Lord wouldn’t have tolerated me for that long if it wasn’t!”