Many things have come and gone in the span of a century. Alma B. Williams of Midway still has the clarity of mind and whimsical wit to recall them all.
Williams will celebrate her 100th birthday Saturday.
“It means a whole lot,” Williams said about her momentous milestone. “It means the Lord is blessing me and I know he loves because he has blessed me to be 100, I know he loves me. And I love him, too.”
Asked to share her secret to longevity, Williams said it has a lot more to do with being spiritually clean than just eating right or exercising.
“Be nice, be honest, be truthful in whatever they do … always be truthful,” she said.
When she was born July 4, 1915, Williams’ family home was in the area once known as McIntosh community. She’s lived in the same house where her parents, Miss Hattie Roberts and Mr. Douse Hendry, taught all their children how to live off the land, fend for themselves and always respect their elders.
“We grew all our own food,” Williams’ daughter Kathleen McLean said, adding that her dad, David B. Williams, kept up the traditional lifestyle that included growing their own vegetables and tending to their own chickens and goats.
That’s just the way it was back then McLean said. And she thinks the hard work of tending to her family’s need as well as the strong faith her mother has in God has sustained her mom’s health and fortitude all these years.
Williams said she attended school at Dorchester Academy and studied until she reached the ninth grade.
“I remember I had a stage dance by myself at Dorchester Academy,” she said with a smile. “And my teacher made me a black-and-white paper dress for me to dance in. Boy, did I like that.”
After school, Williams left Midway briefly and worked in New York and Maryland. But she soon found her way back home and has never left since.
Williams married David B. Williams in 1934, taking in his six children as her own before they added two more to the family: son Paul Williams and daughter McLean. She now has 13 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren. David, a bus driver who retired from the Liberty County Board of Education, passed away Christmas Day 1992, but the love of her family and church friends have sustained her passion to help others and serve God.
Williams is a longtime parishioner of Thebes AME Church in Midway, where she has served in the senior choir, as secretary of the missionary board and the stewardess board, and as senior-class Sunday-school teacher.
She said her mother asked her to learn a recitation in 1932 about Jesus and Easter.
“My mom told me you better learn it, and you better not balk, either,” she said, laughing. “Up until today, I remember that recitation. I say it for many people.”
Without hesitation, Williams recited the poem, which retells the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“I remember it because it is all about Jesus; that is why I remember so well … what the Romans did to Jesus is what stayed in my mind,” she said.
Williams said things were different when she was growing up.
“Things were quite different from now … even the kids … when I was growing up, if the kids did wrong, they got a whipping … these days, they even stop the parents from punishing their own kids, and they don’t know that that can ruin the kids … if you chastise your kids, they are going to remember … when their mind tells them to do wrong, they will remember why they should not do wrong,” she said.
McLean said the folks at Thebes AME Church are planning a surprise celebration at 4 p.m. Saturday that is sure to outdo any fireworks display planned for Independence Day. McLean is looking to spread the word so everyone in the community can come out.
“She is healthy. She has stamina and I pray that I can make it to where she is right now,” McLean said, noting that Williams’ older sister in Pennsylvania just turned 103. “I don’t know the future, but I pray I can make it … she has taught me everything I know … I see her strength and I hope that I can hold on to that and go on.”