Clayton woman, 105, has seen many changes

ndunn@newsobserver.comApril 28, 2014 

When people hear Della Edwards is 105, they say one of two things.

The first is, “You look young for your age,” a comment she said is never bothersome.

The second, “What’s the secret to life?”

“They ask me that all the time,” Edwards said, rocking back and forth in a chair at Meadowview Assisted Living in Smithfield.

The Clayton native said she doesn’t mind that question either, and for her, the answer is simple.

“It’s doing things on the right side instead of the wrong,” Edwards said.

Born April 7, 1909, she was the second of 10 children – six girls and four boys. Growing up, she helped her mother in the home but also helped her father, I.M. Puckett, a farmer who grew mostly cotton but also corn to feed the mules.

“Sometimes, I picked 200 pounds of cotton a day,” Edwards said.

She learned in a one-room schoolhouse before marrying her husband, Andrew, in 1927. The couple continued farming until the late 1940s, when they had two children, Myrtle and Kenneth, and bought a house.

While Andrew went to work at the cotton mill, Della was a homemaker who crocheted for the family and neighbors. She worked at the cotton mill herself for a few years before Andrew’s death in 1968.

“I had a nice marriage and a good husband,” she said.

Edwards went on to travel throughout the United States and also took several cruises abroad.

Her daughter, Myrtle Wallace, said her mother’s long life stems from “her faith and living for the Lord,” something she learned as a member of Bethesda Baptist Church near Clayton.

After a century of living, it takes Edwards a few seconds to recall her most distinct memories. But in the end, it has to be her family, she said, and the “lovely” children.

She also remembers the way things used to be, when she and her brothers and sisters hopped in mule-drawn buggies and rode into town. The old dirt roads have since changed to pavement, and things move a lot faster now, she said.

However, some things haven’t changed. She still greets every newcomer with a firm handshake, something she learned as a teen during a church sermon. Clayton resident Bucky Coats knows Edwards’ handshake after meeting her when she was a stop on his Meals on Wheels route.

“I’ve threatened to quit many times, but when I see her sitting there with that smile, I re-enlist,” Coats said.

Dozens attended Edwards’ 105 birthday party, and friends and family sent her 181 cards. Coats said he remembers the large turnout at her 100th birthday party, something he said signifies the lives she’s touched.

Today, Edwards continues to crochet and enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

“I still like to meet people,” she said of her visitors. “People like to come see what a 105-year-old looks like.”

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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