03/14/04 — Henrietta Williams is 107 years old

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Henrietta Williams is 107 years old

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 14, 2004 2:06 AM

Henrietta Highsmith Williams just might be the oldest citizen in Wayne County.

The 107-year-old Mount Olive woman spent some time in Wayne Memorial Hospital last week while a room was readied for her at Kitty Askins Hospice Center.

Dr. Firas Chazli of Mount Olive Family Medicine treated Mrs. Williams. He said that up until now, the oldest patient he had seen was 101 years old.

"It's an honor to be a doctor of someone that age," he said. "She's seen so much."

He said Mrs. Williams' mind is fading, but the rest of her body is working.

Her daughter, Ethel Briley, said she is still alert but is bedridden. She said she had a slight setback on Thursday but on Friday morning enjoyed grits for breakfast and seemed to be doing well.

"She calls our names, tells us she loves us," she said. "But she doesn't communicate too well."

Born Oct. 10, 1896, Mrs. Williams' grandmother was a slave. Mrs. Williams moved to Mount Olive as a young single woman and worked as a housekeeper for several prominent families.

She and husband David Sr., who died in 1969, raised five children, four of whom still live in the area. David Williams Jr. is now 82, Mary Lue Cobbs is 78, Ms. Briley is 76, and Cliffornia Pearsall is 71. Daughter Eliza Newkirk is deceased.

There is also one god-daughter, Rosetta Fennell, five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

Her legacy is the many ways she has helped others during her life.

"She's a good mother," said Ms. Briley. "She was good to everybody."

In the 1930s, she helped start a school lunch program, worked to feed and clothe underprivileged children and tutored school children.

She also formed a senior citizens club in Mount Olive and had a building at the old Carver School named for her.

In 1986, at age 90, she received the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award for years of voluntary service. Last year, she was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state's highest award.

During dedication ceremonies last year at her church, Payne Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, she was honored as its oldest member.