Approaching her 106th birthday on Thursday, Oct. 1, Frances Miller Haynes of Gainesville said she has a secret to her longevity — loving and being around children.
Although she never had any herself, Haynes said the hundreds of students she embraced as a teacher were her true kids.
“I loved the children,” Haynes said. “They were just so sweet, and they minded good back then.”
After earning her bachelor’s and master’s in education from the University of Georgia in the 1930s, Haynes began teaching and didn’t leave the field until retiring in the 1970s. She taught at elementary schools in Comer, Athens and Americus, and spent her last 12 years of teaching at Candler Street School in Gainesville, which is now occupied by Don Carter Realty Co.
Haynes said she also served as the principal at Candler Street for eight years, then went on to work as assistant superintendent for Hall County Schools.
“There’s something about it (education), it opens up the world around you,” she said. “If you love the children, then you’ve got a wonderful job.”
Before moving to Gainesville in the 1940s, Haynes grew up in Comer with two older sisters and a younger brother. While her mother looked after the home and children, Haynes said her father worked as a farmer growing cotton, corn and peanuts.
As a young girl, Haynes said she had a teacher named Winnie Belle Carson, who would give lessons at her house. She said the lady was her role model and one of the people who inspired her to pursue a career in education.
“I just thought she was wonderful,” Haynes said. “I wasn’t even 5 years old, and I thought she hung the moon.”
When asked what it was like growing up around the now centenarian, Jim Crowley, Haynes’ nephew, smiled and said, “Interesting.”
“When she was teacher, she’d take things away from the kids if they were playing with a toy in class,” Crowley said. “At the end of the summer, she’d give them to me. I’d get excited come summer, and I’d get me a big sack of stuff.”
To travel around Comer, Haynes said her family used a horse and buggy. They later purchased a Studebaker car and were the first in her neighborhood to own an automobile.
Haynes said she remembers seeing her first television in the 1950s.
“I was afraid it would tear up any minute and not play,” she recounted.
Before World War II, Haynes married her first husband, Johnny Miller. Crowley said Miller served in the U.S. Navy in the mid-’40s. While her husband was fighting in the war, Haynes said she was back home working as a teacher.
“I thought he (Miller) would be alright,” she said. “I wasn’t particularly worried about him going to war. We (women) stayed home and held a job and looked after things here.”
Years after Miller died, Haynes married Joe Haynes in 1993 and inherited his children and family. Now she lives with her late husband’s son and his wife in Gainesville.
Today, Haynes spends her time admiring “all types of plants” and watching Atlanta Braves and UGA football.
When married to Miller, Haynes said the two had season tickets to Georgia Bulldog games for over 20 years.
“She used to never miss a game,” Crowley said.
Until around two years ago, Haynes was an avid gardener. The centenarian said she spent “many years” in the Azalea Garden Club, planting all kinds of flowers, as well as scuppernongs and muscadine vines.
“My daddy and mama had a garden,” Haynes said. “I’d get out there, pull weeds and work in the garden before I started school, and I just loved it. I could see them from one day to the next growing.”
Crowley described Haynes as an active woman who can still walk and was driving until a little after 100 years old. He said she only recently experienced her first health scare after having a heart attack a few years ago. Luckily for Haynes, she bounced back.
If Haynes could give one piece of advice to others, she would tell them to “have faith in people and show them that you have it.”
“If you have faith in people, then you’ll be more honest about other things too,” she said.