Signal Mountain woman named Tennessee’s oldest resident at age 112

By Sam Still, Times Free Press undefined

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (AP) —Mary Harris has lived through two world wars, two global pandemics and the terms of 20 presidents, and on May 13, she will turn 112. As of 2021, she has been recognized as the oldest living resident of Tennessee.

Harris said she doesn’t feel any different, despite her age. When asked during a Friday interview how someone can accomplish living such a long life, Harris said she doesn’t have much advice.
“If (people) want to live, they’ll live,” she said. “If they don’t want to, they won’t.”

When she was born prematurely in Ithaca, New York, in 1911 to Italian immigrant parents, a doctor said it was unlikely Harris would survive past infancy.

Instead, more than a century later, Harris can look back on a life that has included getting married, having two daughters, five grandchildren and more than a dozen great-grandchildren; she admits to having lost count of exactly how many great-grandchildren she has.

Harris’ husband, James Harris, came from North Lexington, North Carolina, and worked with her at her brother’s dry cleaning business. He would give her a ride home after work, which she said helped foster their relationship.

Harris and her husband remained together until his death in 2003. During their time together, they lived and raised a family in Ithaca, retired to Florida and moved to Signal Mountain, where one of her daughters lived, and settled into Ascension Living’s Alexian Village.

Harris’ mother provided a piece of wisdom Harris said helped her have a long and happy marriage.

“I took advice from my mother,” Harris said. “She said, ‘Always forgive him.'”

Imparting her own wisdom on younger generations, Harris said, “Always be smart, and stay away from people that are no good.”

Harris does not appear and act her age.

She manages to dress herself and get ready for the day before her caretaker even arrives. She moves about her room at Alexian Village with only the assistance of a walker, or a scooter if she is going to the dining room for meals.

Harris’ birthday has become quite a celebration at the retirement home. According to Melissa Thomas, the clinical program coordinator at Alexian Village who plans Harris’ birthday parties, previous years’ themes included a Hawaiian luau and a candy shop, which reminded Harris of her childhood.

This year, Alexian Village will honor Harris on Friday, one day before her May 13 birthday.

The gathering will bring together her family, friends and Alexian Village community to celebrate. Those who want to give well wishes to Harris for her birthday may do so by commenting on Alexian Village’s Facebook post for Harris.

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Categories: Tennessee News