“I was born in Talladega, Alabama, where I was raised on my grandfather's cotton farm. I enjoyed living there, and we were never bored! We had a lot of freedom and plenty of space to run around and play. We grew our own vegetables and raised our own cattle, and my grandfather was well-respected as a businessman. He was a Native American, so it was impressive at that time in the South that he owned his own farm. We never had to worry about anything.

I never knew my grandmother because she passed away before I was born. My mother was the oldest of her many siblings. I was raised alongside her younger brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts, on my grandfather's farm. I also had three younger brothers of my own.

I attended Talladega High School. I especially enjoyed my home economics class, and I liked to sew. After that, I used to enjoy sewing and making my own clothes.

When I was 21 years old, I moved to Columbus, Ohio. I was married by that time, and my husband's siblings had moved up to Ohio. They claimed they liked it better than the South, so my husband and I decided to follow them to see what the North had to offer. It was a good move for us and provided a good lifestyle for my family. Our house in Columbus had a big front porch. As soon as I got home from work, I would go sit out on the porch and talk to my neighbors. That social time was a big part of my life.

I got my first job in the dry-cleaning business when we moved to Columbus, and I was a presser for my entire career. I worked for the same company, Callander Cleaners, from the age of 21 to the age of 70!

I raised one daughter, Nancy. Now I also have two granddaughters, Kathy and Sharon. I raised Kathy from birth, with help from my next-door neighbor and best friend, Frances. Frances' brother was Kathy's father. Now as an adult, Kathy is married to Erick. Today I have five great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter too.

We are a tight-knit family, and we have very large family gatherings. I am not much of a cook, so Frances, used to host our Thanksgiving celebration. When she got sick some years ago, my granddaughter who is also Frances’ niece, Kathy, took over. Every year Kathy hosts Thanksgiving for over 50 people! She knows I love Christmas trees and decorations, so she makes sure the house is completely decorated, with a Christmas tree in every room, by the time we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoy looking at all the trees, and I love seeing all of the generations gathering together.

My greatest accomplishment is being a good Christian person and raising my daughter, Nancy, and my granddaughter, Kathy. I made lots of sacrifices to send Kathy to college to graduate with multiple degrees. It paid off tremendously, and I thank God I was able to see it all!

At almost 97 years old, I have seen lots of things I didn't think I would ever see, especially the election of a black president of the United States. My advice to future generations is not to be afraid of impossible dreams. If you dream it and you work for it, you can do it!”


~Willie, a resident of First Community Village, Columbus, Ohio


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