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BY SARAH SHEW WILSON
She still remembers growing up in rural Brunswick County, raising a family and working hard for everything she had.
And Bessie Hewett has more memories than most, considering she is possibly the county’s oldest living resident.
The Supply native will celebrate her 108th birthday this month surrounded by generations of offspring, and she will even garner a mention on an upcoming broadcast of NBC’s “Today” show, along with other centenarians from across the country.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get this old,” she said recently from her bed, in the same house along U.S. 17 she’s lived in for decades. “The Good Lord is taking care of me.”
After more than 100 years of independent living, Hewett is now confined to her bed and cared for by a rotating group of caregivers, not to mention the numerous family members who drop by to wish her well on a daily basis.
“Mas,” as she’s known by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, still recognizes her visitors and gets a kick out of the hugs she receives from the younger generations.
Her great-granddaughter, Kacey Abbott, and great-great-grandchildren, Gabriel and Olivia, stopped by on Halloween morning to wish her well.
“She usually has somebody, family and friends, coming by every week,” Abbott said.
“She has a lot of visitors.”
“I love children,” Bessie said as the two little ones crawled up beside her.
Also visiting was her daughter-in-law, Lillian Hewett, who has lived next door since she married Bessie’s son in 1944.
Lillian says her mother-in-law was a great babysitter, so much so her son sometimes didn’t want to come back home after staying with her.
Bessie has numerous tales about growing up in Brunswick County, playing with brothers and sisters on dirt roads and working on the farm. She doesn’t hesitate to share her stories with her family and friends.
A charter member of Calvary Baptist Church, Bessie recalls she named the church “Calvary” after hearing someone else’s idea for a name, which she didn’t like.
“I said, ‘No. I want it to be named Calvary.’”
Abbott, who lived a stone’s throw from her great-grandmother growing up, says she remembers her cooking big breakfasts for all the kids and always having snacks for them when they got off the school bus.
According to Abbott, the family has been sending Bessie’s picture into the Today show since she turned 100, but the large number of people sending in pictures has made it difficult to get through.
Abbott finally got the word this year that Willard Scott would mention her great-grandmother’s name on Nov. 12, a few days after her actual birthday.
It will be an event the whole family can enjoy together.
Bessie, her family and her caregivers say they don’t know the secret to her longevity, but some of the things she’s enjoyed most of her life are chicken and dumplings, fish, Coca-Cola and Three Musketeers bars.
So are those the secrets to a long life? Maybe, but a loving family, a lifetime of hard work and good friends might have something to do with it.