04/05/04 — Eva McKinley turns 100 today

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Eva McKinley turns 100 today

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 5, 2004 1:59 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Eva Grantham McKinley turned 100 years old today.

Her grandchildren are planning a bash for her on Saturday at St. Mark Baptist Church on Nelson Street. They've booked a photographer and a videographer.

"Miss Eva" and one of her daughters, Hilda Byoune, have adjoining apartments near downtown Mount Olive. Plaques cover the area above Miss Eva's couch in recognition of her many years of serving different churches.

Eva McKinley

News-Argus/Bonnie Edwards

Eva McKinley of Mount Olive, center, turned 100 today. With her are her grandson, Daniel Thompson, left, and her youngest daughter, Hilda Byoune.

She grew up on a farm at Grantham and has been active in churchlife since she was 13. She was an usher for 45 years, secretary of the Sunday school and a mother of the church for more than 50 years.

She now attends church at Pleasant Union Church of Christ Disciples of Christ.

"She stayed by herself until last March when she had a heart attack," said Ms. Byoune, who at 63 is the baby in the family.

"She was getting dressed for church and said, 'I'm give out. I just don't feel good.' That's not her. She's not a complainer. She'll say she feels all right, and I can tell by her expression when she doesn't."

Ms. Byoune keeps a monitor in her mother's room so she can hear if she has any problems.

She said the family is going to keep the apartment next door open. "She might get to where she can go back," said Ms. Byoune. "She's very independent, doesn't' want you to wait on her hand and foot."

Miss Eva still feeds and dresses herself. She cooked for herself until two years ago. Her daughter stopped her, because her mother said one day that she felt funny at the stove.

"She's worked hard all her life, raised us 12 by herself," Ms. Byoune said. "Dad stayed sick most of the time."

When Miss Eva and her husband, James Edward McKinley, stopped farming, she went to work in Dr. Jack Drummond's medical office, where she stayed another 21 and a half years. McKinley died in 1973.

She retired at age 90 and stopped driving at age 92. She went to get her license renewed, and the examiner wouldn't let her have another one. "She thought they'd done her wrong," said Ms. Byoune. "She'd got her first one when she was 35. It cost a quarter then, and all you had to do was stand against a wall to see how tall you were."

"She's had 13 pregnancies, and 12 of us are living," continued Ms. Byoune. "Mama's in better shape than we're in."

Miss Eva has an electric wheel chair she calls "the BMW." It sits idle most of the time. She'd rather walk. But the doctors don't like her to walk often.

All 12 of her children are living. She has 43 grandchildren. Four grandchildren have died, two as babies and two when they were in their 20s. She has 58 great grandchildren and 24 great-great grandchildren.

One of her grandchildren, Daniel Thompson, came into the apartment to say hello. "You're still pretty, Baby," he told Miss Eva.

"Yeah?" responded Miss Eva. "If I could just get over that heavy breathing, I'd be all right."

She said she sits up at night sometimes when she's having difficulty breathing. Then she says she "goes to sneezing."

"Seven times in a row before I stop," she adds.

Thompson, who is 46, grew up with his grandmother. "She was an inspiration to me. ... She lived on one road out in the country, and we lived on another road. I'd ride in the back of her Bonneville doing homework on the way to church."

He described the family as one that prays and sticks together. "Not many of us wouldn't follow her guidelines and bend over backward to help somebody else."