- Last Updated on 10:46 AM 01/06/10
- BY Staff
No doubt Lillie Puryear Wiley is everyone’s secret prayer. The independent Wiley takes walks with a friend most mornings at Boston Commons, strictly follows her one-aspirin a day medicine regime …and celebrated her 103rd birthday last week.
“One aspirin a day, that’s all the medication I take,” confirms Wiley. “I went to the doctor as a young woman, he put me on one aspirin, and he told me to take one the rest of my life.” Which she has with great success.
Born Oct. 8, 1906 in North Carolina, the high-energy centenarian lived in the Red Bank and Nelson areas as a child. She was the fifth of eight children born to Willy Gray and Margaret Tuck Puryear.
Her father, a railroad conductor, bought a 100-acre farm near Nelson when she was still a child, and there the family raised tobacco and corn.
“I followed by daddy everywhere he went,” added Wiley with a smile. Her jobs were “whatever came along.”
Whatever came along quickly introduced the love of her life, Simon Wiley.
She was only 15 years old when she met him at a neighbor’s apple peeling. “Back in those days nearly all families had orchards,” recalled Wiley, “and we would slice and dry the apples” for storage.
Pretty Lillie Puryear was helping neighbors at a nearby farm when “someone” kept throwing apple peelings at her. She objected, but Simon Wiley denied being the culprit.
“The next day a friend of his and mine came to the house and said that he wanted to come see me,” added Lillie.
She declined the request since she did not know Wiley, but the friend suggested that he and Wiley call together.
“From that day on, Simon came to the house, but he could stay no later than 10 p.m.,” according to his future wife.
Simon Ruso Wiley was four years older than Lillie, so the two courted for two years before they were married Sept. 26, 1924 in the parson’s house in Oxford. N.C.
She was 17 years old when she and her husband married and moved to his parents’ home in Clarksville. “We lived with them a year before we got our own place,” added Wiley.
As a result of the union, five children were born: James, Barbara Jean, Herbert, Betsy and Margaret. James was killed in an automobile accident when he was 19 years old, but the other children survive. Today, Lillie Wiley also boasts 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Simon Wiley died June 4, 1972.
Her husband’s family were logging people. Simon Wiley “cut lumber all over the state of Virginia,” she recalled. “He moved from site to site overseeing workers.
“My father-in-law gave us a beautiful walnut bedroom suite,” recalled Wiley. “He took the lumber to a Clarksville furniture maker, and they made me a bed, bureau, dressing table and stool, and it was beautiful.”
However, the pieces were too large for her room at Boston Commons, so she gave them to a family member.
For about a decade, Wiley worked in a jewelry store in Clarksville. Originally, owner Joe Cary asked her if she would be interested in working in sales at the store. When she asked him when he would want her to begin work, he replied, “I want you in the morning.” She told him that she would be there.
“I enjoyed working there,” she said. “I could not have worked for a better man.”
Lillie Wiley continued to live in Clarksville until she moved to Boston Commons about three years ago. Her 100th birthday was celebrated at Boston Commons, and a dogwood tree was planted in her honor, according to a friend.
Last weekend, she celebrated her 103rd birthday with family at a restaurant in Clarksville. One of her granddaughters bought her a new red dress and jacket for the occasion; one she happily displayed this week.
Although her eyesight prevents reading, Wiley can see numbers and enjoys playing solitaire.
“She’s as sharp as a tack and has a very good memory,” observed visiting friend Barbara Saunders.
The Good Life
Lillie Wiley hesitates not a second when asked her recipe for the good life.
“I talk to the Lord everyday, as far back as I can remember,” she replied.
“In World War I my brother was sent to France, and I can remember laying in bed praying for him when I was just a little child.
“I could never have gotten where I am without the Lord, And, I am a Baptist,” she added emphatically.
“I am still a member of Clarksville Baptist Church and whenever I have a chance, I go,” she added.
Wiley’s life has encompassed two world wars, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War and the ongoing Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but Wiley’s devotion is summed up simply: “I’m thankful to be able to live in this country.”