By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — Lifelong Jefferson County resident Leilia Majors will turn 102 on Jan. 21, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
Leilia has resided at the Residential Living Center in Mt. Vernon for the last two years, but prior to that she still lived on her own. She started living at the center after she broke her hip.
“She's very independent still,” said Marinda Renshaw, Leilia's friend. “She remembers everything. She carries on conversations. She's just an incredible person.”
To Leilia, the key to her longevity has been living an “ordinary life.”
She said she is most proud of her late son, Clifford Wayne Rightnowar, who had a distinguished career in the U.S. Army from 1949 to the 1960s, serving in Korea, Germany and Vietnam.
“I signed the paper for him to go into (the service) when he was 14 years old,” Leilia said, adding that her son's decision to join the military was a difficult one. “Now that is hard to make up your mind to do, but look what he accomplished.”
Leilia Majors was born on Jan. 21, 1912, on a farm in McClellan Township near the small village of Marco. She had one brother and three sisters and said her childhood involved a lot of work.
The family, she said, had to use horses to do the plowing and planting on the farm.
“We was farmers. Dad was farming and back in them days you didn't have no mules, you had horses,” Leilia said. “Anything that it took to do, we done it with a horse.”
Two of Leilia's sisters are still living. Edith Ford is 97 and Helen Smith is 95.
After working on the family farm, Leilia was employed for 30 years at the Shoe Factory in Mt. Vernon “to make myself a living,” she said.
“I got along good with them,” Leilia said of her time at the factory.
Clifford Wayne was Leilia's son from a first marriage. Leilia met Jim Majors, her second husband, at a local car dealership, where Jim had developed a reputation as a talented mechanic.
“He was so well-known as being one of the top mechanics in the county,” Renshaw said. “He could listen to the motor running and be able to tell what was wrong with it.”
Leilia said she began dating Jim after she agreed to ride along with him on one of his test drives of a vehicle he had fixed.
“Every time that he got a car fixed, he'd say 'now I'm going to go and try this out. You want to go along?'” Leilia said. “So of course I finally took him up on it.”
Renshaw said Leilia's friends are planning to have a birthday party for her on Jan. 21, with a cake and ice cream.
In addition, the Residential Living Center holds a celebration each year honoring residents who are members of the 100 Club. This includes residents who are 100 years of age or older.
“Last year, we had four residents that were 100 and over, and this year we have three,” said Teresa Henson, activity director at the center.
The 100 Club celebration always takes place on the 100th day of the year, which is in April, Henson said.
Henson added that Leilia is great to talk to since she knows so much about Jefferson County.
“She's still got lots of fire in her,” Henson said. “She's full of information if you ever want to find out anything about Jefferson County.”