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Bright And Brief

January 2, 1988

BREWTON, Ala. (AP) _ A message in a bottle set afloat in Little Escambia Creek 15 years ago brought a group of former Brewton residents to a reunion of innocence.

Bonnie Coburn Noonchester was 15 when she met with her friends in 1972 to pledge friendship forever. They sealed the pledge with a poem in a bottle.

″There is a silent river flowing to bring this note to you; to make us each one knowing, of each other’s truths. To let us learn of love and hope, and things that make life thus; and we ask that you communicate gently with each of us,″ the poem read.

Mike Peterson of Pensacola, Fla., found the bottle recently while duck hunting on Parker Island where the Escambia River empties into Pensacola Bay.

Peterson began making telephone calls to Brewton and was able to track down Mrs. Noonchester and her friends, Steve Dantzler, Madison Wright, Steve Johnson and Garry Dantzler. The group had spread from Brewton to California.

They reunited this Christmas and returned to the banks of the Little Escambia River where in 1972 they stood on a sandbar and cupped their hands to drink.

″By drinking, sharing the water, we believed we were sealing the bond of brotherhood forever,″ Wright recalled.

″We sent a message and it returned to rescue us from ourselves,″ Johnson said.

″In a lot of ways we have changed but our ideals are the same. We all needed this,″ Mrs. Noonchester said. ″It brought us back to something we almost lost.″

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CLINTON, La. (AP) - ″Is this all for me?″ Celia Robinson asked the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and great-great- great-grandchildren who had pinned $85 in $1 and $5 bills to her dress.

Yes, they said, the money all was hers - presents for her 108th birthday, which was celebrated New Year’s Day.

There’s no record of Mrs. Robinson’s birthday, and she has outlived all of her brothers, sisters and children. Documents showed her younger brother Matthew Walker was 104 when he died last Feb. 24.

Gertrude Shropshire, who runs the Woodland Community Center and held the party there, said she thinks Mrs. Robinson may be even older than 108.

She was born on Richland Plantation and lived there most of her life, starting work as a field hand at about the age of 10, said Mary Lee Dun, the 58-year-old granddaughter with whom Mrs. Robinson lives.

″The only thing she complains of is arthritis,″ Mrs. Dunn said. ″She fell once and sometimes she complains her side hurts. But she don’t believe in going to the doctor. She won’t hear of it.″

Mrs. Robinson lost her hearing about a month ago, and said little during the party, which 50 people attended.

However, Mrs. Dunn said she likes to sing around the house.

″She sings all the time. She sings, ‘This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going To Let It Shine.’ She sings spirituals. She sings ‘Sweet Home.’ And ‘Amazing Grace.’ She loves to sing ’Amazing Grace.‴

Mrs. Robinson apparently isn’t afraid of death after her long life.

″She’ll tell you, ‘I’m going to leave here one of these days. I’m going home.’ She knows it’s coming,″ Mrs. Dunn said.

And one of her grandmother’s favorite songs is, ″If I Don’t Wake Up in the Morning, Everything’ll Be All Right.″

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PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) - The Phoenix Zoo has a new gibbon for the new year - from a very old father.

The primate was born Dec. 14, but the birth wasn’t publicized until Friday, said zoo Curator Wayne Homan. Its sex isn’t known because its mother has kept it partly hidden.

″The birth was a surprise to us, chiefly because of the age of the father,″ Homan said.

He said the father was Boston Blackie, who has been in the zoo since 1962.

″We don’t know (the age) for sure, because he was born in the wild, but we estimate his age at over 30 years,″ Homan said. ″Since gibbons normally live only 30 years in captivity, that means he’s roughly equal to a human male in his 80s. That’s a pretty spry male.″

Homan said the mother, Liz, is between 12 and 15 years old. She was donated to Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo and loaned to the Phoenix Zoo in 1975.

Gibbons are an endangered species, threatened by the destruction of the Southeast Asian rain forest, Homan said.

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