Clifford Earles was days shy of turning 109 when she died Tuesday afternoon.
Her son Wilton Earles, of Gainesville, said the family didn’t anticipate they would be celebrating.
“We had not prepared a special birthday because she seemed to be declining in her health more,” he said.
The younger Earles, at 79, is one of two surviving children of Clifford’s five boys and two daughters. He is named after his father, who died in 1947.
“She was very dependable,” he said of his mother. “With very little education, she took care of five boys and two girls. She struggled with the whole family up until we all got grown.”
Yet in an interview with The Times last year on her 108th birthday, she said she didn’t have any trouble with them.
She and her husband farmed as sharecroppers, growing cotton and corn on 5 or 6 acres in Lumpkin County. Clifford later tended to others’ children and homes.
The woman who took care of her seven kids then took care of herself past the age of 100.
“She lived by herself till she was 103,” her son said.
On her 108th birthday, Clifford told The Times the Lord showed her where she would go one day.
She described it as a pretty place. Her daughter and a friend were walking toward it; they seemed happy, she said.
Clifford joked then about not having another birthday.
Family is coming from Atlanta, surrounding counties and the Northeast to lay her to rest at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
She will be buried at Hickory Grove Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Dahlonega. But she won’t be buried next to her husband as his headstone is in an older cemetery than the church currently uses.
“We had intended to, but he is buried in an old cemetery the church is about to discontinue,” Wilton said.
Wilton didn’t have a family tree on hand, and said he can’t even begin to estimate how many fourth generation Earles are in the world.
“Many. So many, until I don’t know how many there are,” he said. “We don’t have it wrote down, but she has many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.”
There wasn’t a special secret to Clifford’s longevity, her son said.
“She didn’t even go to the doctor very much until a later age,” he said. “She never did go in the hospital until the last eight or 10 years or so, to be honest with you.”
She loved junk food, he added.
“She always ate whatever she wanted, even up to her later days,” he said. “Just regular old country-type food. She hardly ever even had a cold.”