That phrase would come back to her years later as she searched for a name for her memoirs. It seemed the perfect title for a book about her life, taken from diaries she had kept faithfully for 65 years. The book – published in 2006 - tells the story of a woman’s journey, details of which can be found in the collection of five-year diaries she began in 1941, and which continue into the 70th year this year.
Few would have the dedication to write in a diary every day for seven decades, totaling over 25,600 days. Billie hadn’t planned on a lifetime effort, but the daily entries became a habit allowing her to capture special moments along with simple thoughts to create a lasting treasure not only for the author to revisit, but also for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to peruse. Her daughter, Jan, discovered things about her mother she’d never known, just by reading her words. Friends have been amazed at her tenacity in keeping the journals, and would no doubt find themselves mentioned at some point.
After a devastating fall last September that crushed her left elbow and led to surgery with a steel plate basically replacing her elbow and forearm, Billie was out of sorts for awhile. She’d never been so severely injured before, never broken a bone in all her 85 years. But it didn’t stop her continuing to write in her diaries, and a new joy emerged. Her 11-year-old great grandson, Tai Ingram of Beckley, W.VA, has decided to follow in her footsteps.
“He loves reading the diaries and finding his name,” Billie said. “He started keeping a journal about six months ago. He was so excited about my diaries and is the only one who has ever been. He wanted to do the same, and I told him he was starting out much younger than I did so he could go well past me.”
Billie will celebrate her 86th birthday on Sunday, April 11, but shows no sign of slowing down. She has enjoyed good health all her life and works at staying healthy. “I walk on the treadmill 30 minutes every day. I eat right, I don’t smoke or drink. People say I’m lucky, but I’ve been blessed,” she said.
Her own personal blessings led her to found a program that marks its 29th year this year. The Ladies Prayer Retreat is held the last Saturday in April each year at Beaver Creek Christian Church. This annual gathering has touched thousands of lives all around the country. Ladies from near and far come together to worship and fellowship. One year, there were eight states represented at the retreat.
The retreat takes place this year on Saturday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Returning speaker is Betty Gray from ‘Encouraging Me Ministries,’ whose lively and moving address is complimented by a character dramatization always popular with the participants. If you would like to attend the retreat or learn more about it, you can call Billie at 846-7480. You can also find out more about her book, “The Road is Mine: A Memoir by Billie Alice Baldwin.
Billie’s book takes the reader on a journey from simple and happy beginnings to confusion in relationships and then solace and serenity in a true love that didn’t end with death. Her life as a minister’s wife was filled with happiness and love, humor and grief.
Billie was married at 17 to her first husband, 61-year-old John Watts with whom she had her son John, and who gave her that first diary in 1941, and then to her second husband, Johnny Baldwin, with whom she spent 56 years and had her daughter, Jan. Johnny died in 2003 after suffering through Alzheimer’s.
The book concludes with these words: “Thank you, dear reader, for traveling my road with me. If reading my story has touched someone who has not met Christ, then my humble prayer is that they will read Acts 2:38, obey it, live for Him, and meet me at the end of my road.”
“If I leave a legacy, it is my book and the retreat,” Billie said. “Because the book is my whole life story. (At least, up until this point.) And the retreat has touched so many over the years.”
Perhaps some day, readers will also find a book by Billie’s great grandson capturing the moments of his life in his own diaries. That, too, would be a lasting tribute to Billie’s legacy.