When Foy Ingram died peacefully Saturday at The Pines in Davidson, she was 112 years old, a member of an elite group known as supercentenarians – people 110 and older.
There are only about 300 of these individuals in the entire world, experts say. Outside of Davidson, however, few people knew about Ingram’s amazing longevity. And that’s how she wanted it.
When she turned 100, Brenda Barger tried to write about her for the Lake Norman Times. Barger recalls that Ingram “told me to take a hike.” The Observer’s Mark Washburn proposed an article when she was 105. Again, no luck.
“We didn’t care for publicity,” explains 101-year-old Anna Land, Ingram’s younger sister, who also lives at The Pines, a retirement community north of Charlotte. Longevity researchers approached the sisters, too, but “we turned them down,” Land says. “It was just simpler to stay out of the news.”
Ingram was born on Nov. 28, 1903, according to her obituary, three weeks before the Wright brothers’ first successful flight. But her life was notable for more than its length. In 1946, when women were excluded from many jobs, she became director of the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles’ Registration Division. When she retired in 1970, she was among the highest-paid women in state government, Land says. She was also honored for her service with the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Land explained how Ingram succeeded in a male world: “She knew more. And she was a staunch one for following the law, not favors.”
When The Pines opened in 1988, Ingram was an original resident. She became known for her age and her bridge prowess – she continued playing until recently – and for an impeccable fashion sense that included high-waisted pants, square-framed glasses and well-coordinated jewelry.
For the high-school-aged servers who staffed The Pines’ dining room, Ingram was legendary. When news spread of her passing on Saturday, several former servers messaged each other with memories. They recalled how, when Ingram broke her hip a few years ago, she came walking back into the dining room a few months later.
They also recalled her glasses, her fashion sense and her advice for a long life: Don’t marry, don’t have children, don’t smoke.
“You could tell she was a strong lady,” says former server Hannah Clark, a junior at Appalachian State. “When you took her order, she knew what she wanted. And when she didn’t get what she wanted, she made sure she got it.”
In addition to her sister, Ingram is survived by nine nieces and nephews. There will be a graveside service at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Asheboro City Cemetery.
Pam Kelley: 704-358-5271