Lucille Woods of Gainesville never passes up the opportunity to dance, especially when it’s the Charleston.
Moving her knees to her own beat, Woods couldn’t help but perform the ‘20s jig in excitement of turning 99 on Thursday, July 16.
“Don’t feel old, feel young,” Woods said, smiling.
Born in 1921, the near-centenarian boasts a family of six children, 32 grandchildren, 69 great-grandchildren and “numerous” great-great-grandchildren.
Although she has lived a comfortable life in Gainesville for the past 19 years, Woods said growing up in rural Georgia wasn’t always easy.
She spent the first 16 years of her life in Stilesboro, just outside of Rome. At 5 years old she worked on her family’s farm with her father, while her younger sister tended to matters indoors with her mother.
“I was working in the cotton field and helping my daddy do stuff,” Woods said. “I helped kill hogs. I helped kill cattle. I milked cows. I picked cotton.”
Woods said she was too young at the time to notice the effects of World War II, and her family didn’t experience the hardships most people suffered during the Great Depression. Her family depended on their land, which was plentiful with food and other resources.
Woods said they never owned a refrigerator on the farm, and instead preserved meat with salt. She remembers placing the pork and beef in chests and covering the carcasses with pounds of salt to keep them fresh.
“There was no such thing as blocks of ice or things like that,” she said. “That’s the way we kept our food.”
To make ends meet, Woods said she helped her dad make moonshine during the Prohibition era and would sell it to anyone who wanted it. Despite the ban of alcohol sales in the country, she said her town didn’t frown upon moonshiners.
“Times got hard back then,” Woods said. “We weren’t the only ones who made it. A lot of people made it.”
As a girl, Woods said she would walk 10 miles each day to school. If the weather proved poor, her father would take her in a horse-drawn buggy.
She didn’t see her first car until around the early ‘30s when the A-Model Ford was released on the market. Back then she said the vehicle cost $100.
Woods married her husband Doc, who worked as a house painter, at 18 and lived with him for most of her life in Rome. They had five boys and one girl.
Woods said she’ll never forget her husband’s charisma, especially when he played the guitar at church.
“He would flip it over and play left-handed,” she said. “Every time we’d got to church, people that hadn’t seen him and knew he was coming, they would come. Honey, that church was full.”
Woods remained married to her husband for 63 years up until his death in 2001. She now lives with her daughter Ann Stamey in Gainesville.
Stamey and her daughter, Tonya Busker, said the biggest lesson they’ve learned from Woods is to “love and serve the Lord.”
“I’m 73 years old, and I’ve never seen my mother drink, cuss or smoke,” Stamey said. “She’s always been a godly woman, so we’re very blessed to have her.”
Throughout most of her life, Woods has maintained good health. Busker said her grandmother underwent heart surgery in her 80s, but that didn’t stop her from bouncing back.
“They (medical workers) called her Superwoman because she was up and walking the very next day,” Busker said. “Other than that, she’s never been sick a day in her life.”
Woods said she attributes her longevity to her lack of drinking, staying active and to her faith in God.
“My piece of advice is to not go partying like they do now,” she said. “Leave the alcohol alone. And trust in the Lord, that’s first and foremost.”