Gay '90s celebrates Lee's older citizens

Three 100-plus-year-olds attend program
May. 21, 2014 @ 05:15 PM

The Enrichment Center of Lee County filled up Wednesday for the annual Gay '90s luncheon, which honors Lee County citizens who are "90 years old and better."

"It's important to recognize our older citizens," said the Enrichment Center's executive director, Debbie Davidson. "I think they get left out sometimes."

According to the center's program director, Debbie Williams, 59 people above the age of 90 registered for the luncheon this year.

"We have three 100-plus-year-olds here," Davidson said. "And all of them are still up and walking around."

Mildred Waltman claimed seniority among the luncheon's attendees at 104 years old. Chairman Charlie Parks of the Lee County Board of Commissioners formally recognized Waltman at the end of the event.

"Seniors have a wealth of knowledge on how to make it through life," Parks said. "We're losing that knowledge. We don't take the time to recognize the old folks."

He also recognized William Waddell, 99, who will turn 100 on July 3. He was born in 1914 and, at various points in his life, he cooked on cruise ships, worked as a nurse and traveled to North Africa to serve in World War II.

"You see this?" Waddell said as he displayed a white scar on his left hand. "That's from two years of spilling grits in North Africa."

The honoree has lived in Sanford his entire life, and he now lives two blocks away from the house in which he was born. Waddell remembers a time when Sanford was nothing but farm country; his family owned a plantation, and when a road came through the area, they were the only ones who lived on it.

"Everyone started calling it Waddell Street," he said. "And that's what it became."

Beverly McBryde, 91, is the oldest of 11 children and suffers from macular degeneration, which causes vision loss.

"This is my second year coming here," McBryde said. "I like getting to see everybody. Well, I can't really see them, but I can hear them. I enjoy their company."

Master of ceremonies Margaret Murchison, the WFJA news director, added to the light-hearted tone of the event with poetry, jokes and a list of classic songs re-imagined to apply to senior citizens.

Linda and Robert Phillips provided entertainment with ventriloquism, singing and guitar playing all mixed together.

Parks said he enjoys attending the event and has been doing so for the past four years. He said he would encourage younger people to talk to older generations and learn from their triumphs and mistakes.

"I would love to see more family members here," Parks said. "We need to honor those that paved the way for the rest of us."