Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. was among those who joined Iva Mae Gaston and her son, Reginald Gaston, for the celebration of Mrs. Gaston’s 102nd birthday. (Courtesy photo)

Memphis-based songstress Deborah Manning Thomas posted on Facebook to publicly declare her love for “Mother Gaston.”

“She is truly a “virtuous woman” and she is 102 today!! My bonus “Mom”; so loving, a real encourager and will set you straight, Sho!! Happy Birthday, Mrs. Iva M. Buchanan Gaston!!! I sho love you!!!”

Iva Mae Buchanan Gaston was the happy victim of a drive-by birthday celebration one day after her 102nd birthday on Oct. 1. 

The long line of cars full of church members and community friends waved and shouted birthday wishes at Gaston, who was sitting out front. 

Many in the Vollintine-Evergreen community came out to see what all the commotion was about as the winding caravan of vehicles started at Vollintine and McLean, and drove down McLean.

Iva Mae Gaston with her son, Reginald Gaston, and granddaughter, Dana Gaston. (Courtesy photo)

The caravan came through Gaston’s carport on McLean so she could hear all the wonderful expressions of love and well-wishes. 

Cars then exited onto Edward Ave.

Despite the rain, many of Mrs. Gaston’s church members at Columbus Baptist Church came by to participate in the COVID-19-safe, birthday celebration.

Gaston was told by many what her life and presence meant in their lives.

“I just now thanked Mother Gaston for all she has meant to our church family, and what her example has meant to young women,” said Pastor Ronald Cleaves. “She has taught us men, as well, how to always present ourselves in a manner that would be pleasing to the Lord. She is the epitome of a godly woman.”

Gaston was born in Memphis on Oct. 1, 1919. At 102, she gets around remarkably well. She still lives at home and does most things herself.

“Mother gets around pretty well, and we thank God for that,” said Reginald Gaston, her only child. “She gets out to the beauty shop every three weeks to get her hair done. We planned this birthday party as a mobile celebration because we continue to be very careful in guarding her health.”

Reginald Gaston, who is a highly sought tenor in many local churches, is minister of music at Columbus, and retired from Shelby County Schools as the long-time music teacher and director of the Hamilton High Glee Club.

“In 2019, when Mother turned 100, we organized a gospel musical in her honor,” said Reginald Gaston. “But for the past two years, we’ve been dealing with COVID-19 and felt it would not be wise to try and have an in-person celebration in the traditional sense. Mother enjoyed everyone, and the outpouring of love made her day very special.”

Cleaves said Mother Gaston was an “encourager” who has blessed not only many people in her church, but also neighbors and friends in her community.

“Mother has been at Columbus all my life, I know,” said Cleaves. “It has been, at least, 70 years. Mother Gaston always says that she’s ‘a life-time member.’”

One of Mother Gaston’s favorite sayings of encouragement is “Fret not thyself.

Mother has said so many times, ‘Fret not thyself,’” said Cleaves. “That particular scripture tells God’s people not to be worried about evil doers. For, they shall be cut off. It has always lifted my spirit.” 

Reginald Gaston posted a special message on Facebook:

“Thank you to all who shared in my Mom’s 102nd birthday celebration. She was so excited, happy and glad to see each and everyone of you. Again, thank you. You are always so kind and sweet to her!”