Annie Wilson, a resident of Regency Retirement Village in south Charlotte, celebrated her 105th birthday April 20.
Wilson was born in 1910, the ninth of 10 children to Robert and Lorinna Long Alexander. All the Alexander children were born at home: Mary, Ben, Lilly, Ellie, Verla, Jack, Lucy, Ed, Annie and Robert.
“My father’s parents came from Ireland, and my mother’s family was from Union County,” Wilson said.
The family lived on a cotton farm in Matthews, and each child was assigned daily chores, including picking cotton and bringing wood in for the stove and the fireplace.
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“We grew practically everything we ate,” Wilson said.
The farm also was home to chickens, turkeys, ducks, cows, pigs and geese. Wilson’s mother would pluck the feathers from the geese to use to make pillows and blankets.
“Our feather beds were so warm and comfy in the winter,” Wilson said.
Wilson graduated from Matthews High School, moved to Charlotte and lived with her older brother and his wife. Her first job was as a switchboard operator for Southern Bell.
At age 19, Wilson married her high school sweetheart, James Wilson. The couple lived in Hickory Grove until their son, David, was about 6 months old.
“Then we bought our first house, on Monroe Road, and lived there,” said Wilson. “I was happy being a homemaker and raising David and his younger sister, Lorinna.”
Wilson ultimately returned to work after her widowed sister, Mary, came to live with them. She worked the switchboard for several years at Efird’s Department Store, Bank of Charlotte and finally at Sandoz Colors and Chemicals. After years of riding the bus to and from work, Wilson decided she needed a car. Her husband had a car for the family, but she wanted her own.
One day, when Wilson’s husband came home from work, there was his wife’s blue-and-white Nash Metropolitan in the driveway. That tells you something about Wilson’s determination.
When I met her, Wilson greeted me wearing pearls, makeup, nicely coiffed hair and a lovely pants outfit. She smiled warmly and shook my hand; Wilson is sharp and has a sweet personality.
“I’ve outlived just about everybody,” Wilson said. “My parents, my brothers and sisters, my husband and all my lifelong friends are all gone. I keep having to make new friends.”
Wilson’s son takes her out to eat every Thursday to her favorite restaurant, Bojangles’ in SouthPark.
“I just love friend chicken. I was raised on it,” Wilson said.
She and her friend, Elsie, enjoy shopping at Stein Mart, and try to go every Wednesday.
Wilson reads The Charlotte Observer every day and keeps up with what’s going on. She recently got an aide, who helps her with bathing, dressing and cleaning her apartment.
Wilson said she doesn’t feel so special to have lived this long. She’s had pneumonia three times, survived colon cancer and was diagnosed with scoliosis, but her attitude remains cheerful.
She said she relies on her faith.
“There have been times I’ve said ‘Lord, I need your help. I’m in a place I don’t know what to do.’ Then I take a deep breath and get on with it.
“You do what you have to do,” she said.
Karen Scioscia is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Karen? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annie Wilson’s 105th birthday isn’t the first time she’s drawn attention. Read this previous Observer community news story: http://bit.ly/1ztF6yi.