Strong for a century

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Nora Williams turns 100 years old Saturday

By Alice Du Pont

The years have slowly crept up on Nora Williams. Saturday she will join the ranks of some of the world’s most elite and special people in America when she turns 100 years old.

“Oh, I feel just fine. I can take care of myself; I can cook and eat about anything I want. I can clean my own house. The only thing I really miss is my garden,” she said.

A gardener most of her life, Williams no longer has a plot of land where she can plant and pamper her crop in the one-bedroom apartment she lives in since she moved back to Quincy three years ago from Cocoa.

While Williams gave birth to four daughters, she has more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than she can name. She estimates the grandchildren are more than 100, with at least half that many great-grandchildren.

“Of the four daughters she had, two are living but we have a big, big family. One of my aunts had eight children, and the other one had about the same. All of their children and grandchildren have lots of kids,” said Janice Walker, one of Williams’ granddaughters.

Louis Hughes, 81, the oldest daughter, lives in Greensboro while another daughter, Marva Williams still lives in Cocoa. The Williams women in her family tend toward longevity. Williams’ mother, Ida Jenkins, lived to be 98, while her grandmother, Amelia Hill lived to be 105.

“I was born in Gretna; I don’t really remember when (the year) I left. After tobacco went out, I went to Cocoa and worked in a laundry called Green’s Supreme Cleaners. I’ve always loved flowers and working in flowers. When I got off from work, I tended my garden everyday. My front yard was filled with zinnias, marigolds and whatever I wanted to plant. I could grow vegetables, too. I had the prettiest greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, you name it. I bought and planted whatever I liked,” she said.

Behind her eyeglasses, Williams’ eyes twinkle when she remembers her garden. The garden drew so much attention that newspaper articles, accompanied by color photos were published in the Cocoa Press Tribune.

People used to ride by her Fiske Boulevard home and slow down just to look at the garden.

“I had the most beautiful roses,” she said with pride.

The only day she missed tending her garden was Sunday. She longs for the garden she had in Cocoa or even just a few feet of earth to enjoy the sweet smells of colorful plants that were so much a part of her life.

“Every day you could find me planting, weeding, arranging, fertilizing or watering,” Williams said.

Her news clippings are now kept in a plastic bag along with some of her most cherished photos where she can readily retrieve them and share with those who stop to visit. The church bulletin even had a two-page spread on her green thumb in 1986 long before the rest of Cocoa knew of her gardening skills.

Williams said she attributes her many years to her faith, clean hiving, hard work and honesty. But most of all, she said, the way she treats people.

“I treat people the way I want to be treated. I have given my last dollar to people who were sick, and it always came back to me with more. That’s all you have to do in this life is treat people right,” Williams said.

She is still able to clean her own house, cook her own meals and eats just about anything she wants.

“I love cooking. I like oxtails, catfish, garden peas, butter beans (any kind of vegetables). I don’t really watch my diet.

I’ve never had high blood pressure, no chest pains and I never had a headache. The only thing I have is a little arthritis in my back,” she said.

“I’ve been through some things in my lifetime. I’m asking the Lord to help me be able to take care of myself and when I can’t, he can take me on,” Williams said.