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Centenarian celebrated at Bethany Baptist Church

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Henry County native, Beatrice Rape, said what she is most proud of accomplishing, over the full century of her life, is the way she has been able to teach young people at her church.

"It helped them to know that there was a God," said Rape, who turned 100 Saturday.

A celebration was held in Rape's honor Sunday, at Bethany Baptist Church in McDonough, where she has taught Sunday School to 4-and 5-year-olds for 50 years. She was awarded a plaque during the occasion, honoring her long life, and her years of service to the church.

Rape was born Sept. 18, 1910, to Robert Henry Coleman and Ida Lucy Chaffin. The oldest of six children, she grew up on a farm in the Ola area of McDonough.

Rape said many people in today's world would likely not have been able to survive in the era of her youth. "I remember many a morning, when I was out in the field chopping cotton," she said. "[Today], they just won't do like we did when I was raised. They couldn't live ... if they had to live the way I did."

Rape was married Feb. 10, 1929, to her husband of 45 years, George, who died Jan. 13, 1973. She worked as a seamstress for National Pleaters in McDonough. George and Beatrice Rape had three sons -- Charles, Wilbur and Jerry. Beatrice Rape has outlived her siblings, and one of her sons, Jerry, who died in 1991.

Charles Rape, 78, of Covington, described his mother as a very strong woman."She was very strict when I was growing up," he said. "She had to be, with three boys."

Beatrice Rape's longevity can be credited to "clean living, and trusting the Lord," her son said. "When she had problems, she put them in the Lord's hands," he added.

Beatrice Rape also taught a Royal Ambassadors' class, as part of a missions ministry at Bethany Baptist. She was "faithful to her church," teaching until she was 70 years old, according to her son, Charles.

Chuck Sheppard, associate pastor of Bethany Baptist, said he only has been working at the church for seven years, but has heard tales of Beatrice Rape's devotion to the children she taught. Sheppard called her a "precious lady" with a "sharp mind," who dedicated her life to helping those around her. He said people would do well to learn from her example.

"She always had a heart of service," the associate pastor continued. "If there was a need, and she believed she could fill it, she did."

Some of Rape's former students came to Sunday's celebration to pay tribute to her.

"There were at least half a dozen people, who gave testimonies about being in her Sunday School class," Sheppard said. "A lot of our seniors were taught by Mrs. Rape, and they remember her."

Beatrice Rape, who now lives at Westbury Personal Care Home in Jackson, said she was surprised to see some of the people she taught as children.

"When they stood up, I just couldn't believe that they had kept a record of that, and that I had done all that," she added. "It made me proud that I was able to do what I did down there. I just liked working with them. I guess that was just my calling."