Some people may age, but they never get old.
Thelma Wilson, of Lima, belongs in that category. She stood by her birthday cake Wednesday, and with just a tiny bit of coaxing, shuffled her feet with a few dance steps, much to the delight of her grandchildren.
Not bad. Not bad at all for a person celebrating their 103rd birthday.
“That’s my mother,” laughed daughter Barbara Banks. “She still loves to dance … always has … and she gets around without the use of a walker or cane.”
Barbara and her brother, Gary Wilson, threw Mom a birthday party Wednesday at the Husky Refinery recreation center, and it was hard to tell who had the biggest smile — Thelma, or the many family members and friends who arrived from New York City, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Columbus and Michigan. All had their favorite stories to tell about a woman who grew up in Phoenix City, Alabama, the youngest of 10 children, earning her the nickname Baby Doll.
Her grandchildren recalled the tales they heard about Thelma’s childhood: How she would go to school on a horse and buggy and come home to help her mother with the cooking and cleaning. Since Thelma’s family had no inside water, she would have to draw water from the well to clean the dishes.
Over the years, Thelma’s love for cooking was only matched by her family’s enjoyment of her meals.
“Every day she would cook like she was making a Sunday dinner,” recalled granddaughter Voletta Banks. “There would be side dishes along with the main course. Her desserts were also homemade. No store-bought crust for her pies. My favorite dish was her macaroni and cheese and her biscuits.”
Voletta’s sister, Tascia Banks Watson, was partial to her grandmother’s banana pudding. Another granddaughter, Pamela Ross, told of taking some of Thelma’s biscuits with her on a plane heading back to New York. “You could smell them all over the plane and someone offered to buy them.”
Thelma’s son, Gary Wilson, told how his mother has never known a stranger during her nearly 80 years in Lima.
“She loves people. She’s not only been a mother for her children, but she’s been a mother to all her grandchildren and neighbors,” he said. “She instilled in us to always take care of your business and always keep God in your life.”
Thelma was born April 10, 1916, in Smith Station, Alabama. To put it into perspective, 10 days after she was born, Weeghman Park, now known as historic Wrigley Field, opened in Chicago.
Eighteen U.S. presidents have held office during her lifetime, from Woodrow Wilson to Donald Trump. She met President Barack Obama during one of his two visits to Lima, and she said “we had a nice talk.”
Thelma has witnessed the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights movement and saw America put a man on the moon and the Berlin Wall come down. She was a young woman during the Depression. “Tough times bring out the best in you,” she said.
And the best in Thelma Wilson is her deep faith in God. For Thelma, Holy Week and Easter Sunday are every day. She’s a proud member of Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church and for years sang in its choir. “The Lord and family, that’s what matters,” she said.
She lost the love of her life, Wade Wilson, in December 1973, and also has outlived two children. She feels blessed to have 15 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren.
A couple of years ago she spoke to a group of students at Perry schools. Asked about advice, she simply said, “You have to go to church, children.”
Her daughter, Barbara Banks, chimed in that day, “I never dreamed my mother would ever live to be 100. It’s an honor to me. So you kids remember, honor your father and mother while you can. You never know how much time you’re going to have with them. Don’t be sassy.”
Thelma Wilson has lived a long life, and clearly, she has touched even more.
ROSES AND THORNS: That sound coming from the rose garden is a coach’s whistle.
Rose: To Melanie (Halker) Moore, a 1995 graduate of Ottawa-Glandorf High School. She was named the head women’s basketball coach at Xavier University.
Rose: To Luke Haselman, a 6-year-old Glandorf Elementary student. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day for the Toledo Mud Hens. Luke has been treated for leukemia for two years and is a cancer survivor.
Rose: The latest rage in sports — axe throwing — comes to Delphos via Kevin Wieging, owner of the Axe Cave. In describing the sport, Wieging says, “It’s kind of like darts and it’s kind of like bowling.”
Rose: To Rachel Hern, who organized a cleanup of Lima’s downtown on April 7 that saw more than 100 volunteers show up to pick up trash. Volunteers came from all walks of life including a kindergarten class from Shawnee.
Rose: To Marvin Schwiebert, 65, who retired from the Putnam County Sheriff’s office after 44 years of service.
Thorn: For the sixth time Bath Township firefighters were called to the former Lima Inn on Neubrecht Road to extinguish a fire. The latest call was April 6.
Thorn: A fire at the Cloverdale Town Hall has been ruled an arson.
PARTING SHOT: “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked.”
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.