National Centenarian Awareness Project
I n s p i r i n g   P o s i t i v e   A g i n g

Founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

National Centenarian Awareness Project
Donate to NCAP
Help us continue to honor our elders.


Our Centenarian Blog: Live to 100 and Beyond

About NCAP

Lynn Peters Adler

Contact Lynn


Sign up a Centenarian

NCAP Centenarian
Recognition Program


Future Centenarian

Barbara Walters
ABC Special
"Live to be 150"  Behind the scene



Media Archive

Calendar Archive

Video Excerpt
"Centenarians Tell
It Like It Is"

Excerpts from
Lynn's Book:
The Bonus Years

NCAP Scrapbook

NCAP Book/Video

WWI Tributes

WWII Tribute
Honor Flight

In Memoriam

Future Projects



Our August 2009 Calendar - Ruby Wilson, 103

To print the August 2009 calendar you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer.
If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download a copy free of charge from the Adobe website. Just click on this icon:

Click here to download/print

 A Full Life – Ruby Myrick Wilson, 103


      Ruby Myrick was born on August 30, 2006, on a farm in south central Mississippi, the second of four children. Willie Wilson was born on a neighboring farm one month before. They met during a quilting bee in their earliest days when placed side by side on their “pallets” under the quilt their mothers were earnestly working on.  “Quilting was serious business,” Ruby tells. All the women from neighboring farms would get together each week to work on one for whoever was in need in the area. Fires were common, and often families were left homeless – the quilts were often donated to them, usually through the church, which was both the spiritual and social hub of the community.” Ruby remains an avid quilter to this day.
      Tragically, Ruby’s mother died when she was only 10 years old. Her father raised the children, plus a son by his first wife who died when the boy was an infant, with the help of his sisters.

This 1929 Ford replica, owned by a relative, caught Ruby’s attention because it reminds
her of the car her father purchased new in 1924, when she was 18.

        Willie J lost his father at around the same age.  Both Ruby and Willie J attended the local one room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. “Yes, we were childhood sweethearts,” Ruby tells.  Ruby went on to receive a high degree of education, she admits, given the circumstances of their life in rural Mississippi at that time.  Willie J, meanwhile, quit school to help his mother rear her large family on the farm two miles away.  “We never lost touch with each other,” Ruby says.  “We didn’t drift apart, the way some young people do when one goes off for higher education.  Willie J just didn’t like school, but he was very creative and good with his hands.  He could do anything – everything, really.”  And Willie J had a plan.  He had his eye on a rundown house and farm half way between their family farms. With this goal in mind, someday to buy the house, which had been built by a doctor, and to farm the land and carve out their life together there, Willie J worked hard while Ruby was studying.

Ruby with one of her quilts.

Ruby with one of her quilts.

     Ruby and Willie J married on May 28, 1927.  For the first year they lived with Willie J’s mother to save money for their “dream house.” At that time it was called a “dog trot” house, Ruby explains. It had a center hall that ran the length of the dwelling, dividing the sides. “It was built to be cool. On one side was the parlor and dining room and family room and our bedroom, and a fireplace. On the other side of the hallway were bedrooms for the kids.  The kitchen was in a separate building altogether, also with a fireplace. Ruby and Willie J had cows, pigs, chickens and of course eggs.  “We grew all of our own food,” Ruby recalls. “I only bought coffee, sugar and flour, baking soda and baking powder,” from the store in town about seven miles away.  “What I didn’t have, I didn’t use,” she states matter-of-factly. 
      Together Ruby and Willie J raised seven children – three boys and four girls – all of whom are well and healthy, a very close knit family with Ruby happily its matriarch, and still living in the home they created and updated over the years.  When her daughter, Jo, recently asked Ruby about the years of the Great Depression, Ruby replied, “My child, we didn’t know there was a Depression. This is how we lived.  We were very poor but we didn’t know it because everyone was.” 
      Jo recalls what an accomplished seamstress her mother was, along with crocheting, embroidery and of course, quilting.  During the 1930s and '40s, Ruby made all of the children’s clothes from feed sacks.  “When the feed would be delivered for the farm, Mother would go out and pick the prettiest bags – the feed came in flowered and patterned cloth sacks,” Jo says.  “We girls really had the nicest dresses in school because Mother was so good she could make anything, and added embroidery and lace details.  I don’t know how she found the time – she was always busy cooking, cleaning. The main meal was at noon and she would make dinner for all the farm hands and temporary pickers.”  Touching on a sensitive subject in the deep South of that era, Jo continues. “Although there was segregation all around us, not so on our farm.  Daddy would go to town to pick up day workers and Mamma would cook for them, and we kids would serve them their meal, same as the others.  That’s the way we were raised: that all God’s people are created equal.”
      Church and Sunday school were the mainstays of the family’s life.  “Church was the main thing,” Jo says. They would pack up all the kids and head off to church on the back of a flat bed truck, us with our legs dangling over the side.  Along the way we would pick up others if they happened to be walking along the road.” Church remained an integral part of the family’s social life as well.  Ruby describes herself as a very committed Christian, with an expert command of the Bible, her constant companion.  Even now she reads her Bible every day “for strength,” she says. Ruby still attends church regularly at the same country church of their early years.

Ruby's Bible
Ruby's Bible

      Eventually they bought a radio and later, by the late 1950s, a television and a telephone.  Willie J was the head of the household, but Ruby was his equal partner in all things, “as the Bible teaches,” she says confidently.  When they could afford it, Willie J bought new equipment.  The Sears and Roebuck catalogue was a much thumbed through book, as was common with most farm families of that era. 

Schooling Ruby Wilson,
In Her Own Words

In 1921 I started my ninth grade year at Stringer School.  I had completed the first eight grades at Oteo grade school.  I rode to school in a covered wagon owned by a man in our community.  He picked up all of the high school students and transported us to Stringer School.  At that time the school had only 11 grades.  One year my sister, Sybil and I boarded with Mrs. Foley in Stringer so that we could walk to school.  Some of the teachers also rented rooms from her.
      In 1923, seven students were ready for the 12th grade.  The surrounding small grade school consolidated into Stringer and a 12th grade was added. Edom 8th grade school and Oteo 8th grade school were two that I remember merging into Stringer.   My class was the first graduating class from Stringer High School in the spring of 1924.
      The school building was the back part of the school building you used as a study hall, stage, and balcony area.  It had 2 floors, grade school was on the first floor and high school was on the second floor.  Later, a log house was built for a lunch room and soup was served.  I carried my lunch everyday consisting of biscuit and sausage or biscuit and ham, with water to drink.
      Our parents bought our books and they were passed down to younger brothers and sisters.  Our subjects were English with lettering and penmanship, math, history, geography, physiology, Latin I and II and the book of Caesar.  In home make economics’; we learned about housekeeping, etiquette, and sewing.  Each class room had a blackboard and chalk. The school day was from 8:00 until 3:00 and we always had lots of homework every night.
      We had Friday evening programs with spelling matches and recitation of poems or some other works.  I remember a particular field day in the county one year.  I competed in the Latin translation of Caesar.  I was not aware that we could use our book, so I had not brought mine with me; however, I knew the material and did place in the contest.  We had weekly chapel programs starting with Bible reading and prayer followed with the pledge of allegiance to the flag and a song.  The junior and seniors presented a play each year.  PTA was just in the beginning stages.
      Recess games were jump rope, hopscotch, jacks, marbles, mumble peg, and baseball. We called baseball “town-ball”, because we had a pitcher, a batter, and a catcher, with everyone else was in the field. Some students brought treats from home for recess; some of us just had water from the hand pump to drink.
      Our sport was girls and boys basketball teams.  The girl’s court was divided into three sections, with each team having 2 forwards, 2 guards, and 2 centers in each section.  The players could not step on or cross the line into the next section. We could only dribble once before passing off to another player. I played center.  The boys played full court with 5 players.  Our games were played on Friday afternoon, during school hours outside on a dirt court.  Our biggest rival was Bay Springs.
      Both teachers and students dressed in very plain clothes.  Our aunt sewed our dresses, skirts and blouses. Pants were not allowed for girls and lady teachers.  I remember going to a basketball game at Louin during school hours one year.  I wore a blouse with a button up collar and a red bow tie. My skirt was a little flared with a mid-calf length.  Some thought I was inappropriately dressed, too mannish looking.
      The social life of a teenager consisted of walking to a common place to meet other teenagers.  Sometimes, on Sunday afternoon we would ride in a buggy to the depot in Stringer to watch the train go by.  We dated in buggies, however, by this time a few cars were being bought.  Papa bought a truck and built a wooden body with seats similar to a trolley car and became the school bus driver.
      Woodrow Wilson was our president during this time.  We knew very little about what went on in the world since we only got a weekly news paper from Memphis through the mail.  Stringer did not have a post office at this time, our mail came from SoSo.  We had no radio, no electricity, no paved roads, and no telephones.
      The summer after graduation, I went to Clark College, then took a county certification test and started teaching.  My first job was at Polkville in a two teacher school.  I taught grades one through four and the other teacher taught grades six through eight.  The next summer I attended The Teachers College in Hattiesburg (USM), and taught the following year at Fellowship (North Jasper County) at a three teacher school.

       Through the years, they improved the house until it no longer looks like a “dog trot” house, and Ruby is pleased to still call it home. In their retirement years Ruby and Willie J were able to travel throughout the country and enjoy themselves. They took frequent bus trips with their church group, and saw the West Coast and all along the top of the states on one long journey. They also traveled up and down the East Coast over the years.  Willie J stayed with his beloved until he was 88, and Ruby is certain he is waiting for her in Heaven. In fact, she jokes that he is probably saying (about her longevity) that she apparently is not in a hurry to join him.
       Throughout the years as the children grew, Ruby always helped in the fields and always, and to this day, keeps a garden.  And she still “puts up” the home grown vegetables for the winter, with the assistance of her family. Jo describes a recent event. “This year she put up corn, green beans, beets, peas and butter beans.  They fill several freezers.  All the kids help – it’s a real family affair.  In fact, we renovated the barn just so she would have a place where we could all work on this, and also have get-togethers. You have to cut off the corn, blanch it and then pack it into freezer bags.  At the end of the afternoon, I was exhausted, but Mom wanted to keep going.  By the way, she had already cooked lunch, which is a complete meal, for all the family, and was planning on attending prayer meeting later on.  When she said we could get more done that afternoon, I finally told her, “Mom, I’m going home. You’ll have to get one of the others to help and to take you tonight.” Honestly, I was beat and she was still perking along.  She’s amazing.” 
       Also throughout the years, Ruby found the time to teach Sunday School and was very involved in the Home Demonstration Club of farmwives, hosting get togethers to show others the latest techniques for daily homemaking.  She would get the latest things that farmwives could do and enjoyed demonstrating whatever was new: canning, sewing, domestic skills.  She was president of the Club for many years and also president of the
PTA when the children were in school.  Ruby describes herself as a leader and always enjoyed being active. She attributes this, in part, to the good health she has enjoyed most of her years, along with home grown food without preservatives – “natural food.” Ruby was a source of comfort to her adult children who still come to her for her advice and wisdom, which she shares, but she never intrudes in their lives or takes sides.  And one cardinal rule: “I never butted in on how my kids should raise theirs.”
       Ruby was also not a doting grandmother.  All of the grandkids would come to stay at intervals during the summer, but Ruby never varied her schedule or plans to suit theirs.  “I did my things and let them do theirs. It all worked out fine,” she adds. 
       Ruby has the undying devotion of her extended family, Jo concludes, although she is very modest and doesn’t feel she is anything special to deserve all the attention she receives from others “just because I’m 103 years old,” Ruby adds.  Her philosophy: “If they – and this includes her children, grandchildren, great grandchild, a few step grandchildren and now one great-great grandchild – want to pay attention to me, OK; and if not, that’s OK, too.”
       From the looks of this happy family (pictured below), Ruby will never be without attention!

Ruby and her family
Ruby and her family.

Respecting the privacy of this centenarian and all centenarians on our website, we ask all media (or other businesses) to please direct inquiries to Lynn Adler:

- top -

1998-2012 National Centenarian Awareness Project & Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
No material, in whole or in part, may be reprinted or reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Lynn Peters Adler and the National Centenarian Awareness Project.