“Do the best you can. Just live your life.”
This is some of the advice Frances Wilson, 103, gives to friends at her home at East Ridge at Cutler Bay where she has resided for the past 11 years.
Chatting with a visitor, Wilson had just finished a dish of ice cream along with her steady luncheon group in the dining room of the Three Palms Health Center, a newly-opened residence at Cutler Bay’s oldest full-service life plan community.
Bright and articulate, when asked about the reason for her longevity, she looked up with a smile and said: “Staying single,” and then added with a humorous twinkle in her eyes: “See? I told you I’m not someone interesting to talk to.”
Born in Indiana in 1913, Wilson was five years old when her family moved to Miami, residing in a northeast area northeast of Flagler Street, now a busy downtown thoroughfare. “And be sure it’s Mi-am-UH!” corrects Wilson, who grew up in the city’s pioneering days when residents proudly retained a softer accent when speaking about their city.
She fondly recalls early childhood days. “We took a boat to Key Biscayne to go swimming and Bayfront Park was our playground in those days,” she said. She could “hardly find” these areas during a recent trip downtown. “The buildings now are amazing.”
Compiling her teaching years at three Miami elementary schools, all of them just like herself are still going strong today. “I walked to school to teach,” she says with pride. Her classroom career began at the Santa Clara Elementary School in a residential area of Miami’s northwest section, teaching second and sixth grades.
She later became an assistant librarian at West Lab School in Coral Gables that partners new programs with the University of Miami and later at Riverside School, Florida’s largest elementary school in 1927 now serving the area known as “Little Havana” along SW 2nd St.
While she keeps up with the news, Wilson notes, “Yes, I watch some TV but I really don’t care for a lot of it so I just listen to the music.”
Still active with the support of a walker, you might find her mornings getting her daily exercise along the walkways meandering through East Ridge.
Otherwise she’s content to “visit with my friends.” She has a final piece of advice for those who may also want to pass the century mark: “Just go along, and enjoy things as they come,” concluded the eldest resident of the East Ridge at Cutler Bay. “And take a nap, now and then.”