South Charlotte

Live to be 101: Slow down, enjoy life

Annie Marie Wilson's nails were painted hot pink, her hair was perfectly curled, and she was wearing her 80-year-old wedding ring, her hand placed gently in her lap.

Wilson, who also recently celebrated her 101st birthday, is full of Southern charm.

Wilson was born Anne Alexander on April 20, 1910, and has lived in Mecklenburg County her entire life. She was born and raised on her family's farm in Matthews, one of 10 children. She said they didn't have much but that she never felt she was missing out.

"You can't miss what you never had," said Wilson. "We were happy. I had a good life, good parents and lots of love."

Wilson said she enjoyed life on the farm. She was the second-youngest of five daughters and five sons and had chores such as feeding the chickens, milking cows and keeping the stove wood stacked for household use. The Alexander family never had indoor plumbing or a telephone, and the closest neighbor was miles away.

Wilson started school in 1916 in a one-room schoolhouse and walked more than a mile with her siblings to get there. When she was in fourth grade, they started taking a pony and buggy to Matthews High School.

"We really thought we were something with that pony and buggy," said Wilson.

Wilson graduated in 1928 and was married in 1929 to James Wilson when she was 19 years old. Her son, David, was born in July 1930, and daughter Lorena was born three years later.

She said the Great Depression hit her family hard after her husband lost his job as a cabinetmaker. Her family moved in with her parents to help ease the burden of unemployment.

"We didn't have much of anything, and it was a terrible time," said Wilson. "My parents had plenty of everything because they lived on a farm, and they welcomed us to come live with them."

Wilson lived with her parents for a couple of years until her husband got a job making women's hosiery in a mill. She was a housewife for most of her life but worked in a department store once her children were old enough for school. She also took jobs with an insurance company and a chemical plant, retiring when she was 65.

Wilson said she never had a complicated life and took things as easy as she could. She said she comes from a family of longevity, and her siblings lived into their 80s and 90s.

"I'm not sure why I've lived so long, but maybe it's because I never had much of an exciting life," said Wilson. "I was a wife, I kept house and raised my children, and I liked it that way."

James Wilson died in 1979, and Wilson lived on her own until she had a minor stroke six years ago and moved into the Regency Retirement Village in Charlotte. She said she spends her free time with her family and doing needlework; that's also how she celebrated her birthday.

Wilson said she believes the world today is complicated and violent, and she rarely watches the news. She thinks the upcoming generation would benefit from slowing down.

"I wish young people weren't in such a hurry to get on with their lives," said Wilson. "Maybe if they slowed down a little they could really enjoy their life, like I did."