ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Libby Dobyns has been a part of Unity Baptist Church since 1920 when her family came to Ashland on a horse and wagon.
The 99-year-old was honored for her faithful service and devotion during Sunday’s morning service as Jeremy Couture – the ninth pastor she has sit under – presented her with a glass-engraved plaque that extolled her years of service to the church.
“This is such a nice honor,” she said. “I don’t know what to say.”
Libby sat with her “younger” sister Opal, who is 97, and about two dozen friends and family who packed pews around her. The church gave her a rousing ovation and Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore presented her with a Key to the City and proclaimed Sunday as “Libby Dobyns Day” in Ashland.
“She is Ashland,” said Gilmore, who said he first met Libby only a few months ago during a citywide event that helps the elderly and others with household repairs. “I came to her house and she motioned for me to come in. We talked for a few minutes and she said, ‘I know your face but can’t place you.’ I told her I was the mayor and she said, ‘That’s it! I’ve seen your picture in the newspaper.’’’
Gilmore said he learned that Libby worked at Armco Steel for 31 ½ years and at G.C. Murphy’s in downtown Ashland for 4 ½ years. The small department store has been gone for decades.
Her long history with the church started when she was a 2-year-old and the family, new to the area, was invited to attend. She became a church member in 1931 – although she was baptized at First Baptist Church because Unity didn’t have a baptistry at the time. She began teaching 11-12 year-old girls in Sunday School at the age of 18.
Libby stayed involved with church work throughout her life, including starting the Prime-Timers in 1981 with Tommy Dixon. The group dedicated to seniors in the church remains active today with monthly lunch meetings.
“We wanted to honor Libby and show her how much she means to us and how much we love her here at Unity,” Couture said. “I’ve spoken to her several times over the years and she’s always so kind and has such a good sense of church history.”
Friends gathered around her before and after the service exchanging well-wishes. Her favorite hymns – “Because He Lives,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Blessed Assurance” - were sung in a medley honoring her.
Couture joked that if anyone else made it to 100 that they could pick their favorite songs, too.
Libby turns 100 in December.