WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Alberta Lyles walked into her birthday party Thursday with two well-dressed men, one on either side, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
They were more for show than to help her into the room, though. She may be 110 years old, but she can still walk just fine on her own, thank you very much.
“I don’t even need a walking stick,” Lyles said.
She doesn’t need glasses, either. She’s still got her appetite – as evidenced by the dent she put in her birthday lunch of chicken and mashed potatoes – and she can still cook, clean and do just about anything else she wants on her own, said Aleane Bohannon, her granddaughter. Bohannon took her grandmother into her Winston-Salem home six years ago.
“She’s so humble about it all, too,” Bohannon said.
Lyles, one of Forsyth County’s oldest residents, couldn’t help but be in the spotlight Thursday. Dozens of friends and family members gathered at Mount Zion Baptist Church for a celebration of Lyles’ 110 years and those left still to come. The day brought together four of the family’s six living generations.
“It’s a blessing,” said Hildred McClain, niece to Lyles. “She’s a blessing.”
The luncheon was punctuated by singing and scripture – two of Lyles’ loves – and a mayoral proclamation. Mayor Allen Joines was there to announce “Alberta Lyles Day” in Winston-Salem.
Lyles seemed to enjoy her afternoon in the sun, but said she looking forward to going home, too, because she had something to do.
“I’m going to sew me a suit,” she said.
Bohannon said sewing, reading and church are her passions these days.
“Mama sewed,” Lyles said. “She could make anything. So can I.”
Lyles was born and raised in Wadesboro, where she lived until moving in with Bohannon in 2008. She raised two daughters there with her husband, James, who died in 1985. Lyles was a homemaker and talented seamstress.
When Lyles lost her husband, she moved in with one her sisters. They lived together for decades, until her sister passed away. But Lyles has always stayed strong, her family said.
“There wasn’t anything too hard or too much for her to do,” said Hattie Caple, one of Lyle’s nieces in town from Wadesboro for the party.
Lyles was living with a niece when she came to visit Bohannon in Winston-Salem and never left. Bohannon said she’s always been close with her grandmother. She remembers being a little girl and watching Lyles and other family members churning butter.
“I cried, I wanted to make butter so bad,” said Bohannon, laughing about the distant memory. “She fixed me a little churn. I never did make a lick of butter.”
Bohannon said Lyles broke her hip several years ago and is hard of hearing in one ear, but otherwise remains in good health and shows no signs of slowing down. Bohannon said Lyles has lived simply and always given plain advice: eat well, drink water, rest, get fresh air and stay out of other people’s business.
“I’m so happy for her,” Bohannon said, looking toward her grandmother. “I lost my mom. So, that’s mom.”