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Celebrating 109 years ... But who's counting?

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'Well, I've never worried. I'm not one to worry about things.'

By Neila Schuhmann

The sunlight streams through the window, casting a glow on her silver white hair. She sits contently in her comfy chair, a bundle of hot pink yarn in her lap that will soon become a crocheted bookmark - one of many that she gives to her visitors.

It's a usual day for Lera Williams. Except, perhaps, that she has just received 11 more birthday cards in the mail. That totals 33 so far. And, as of Thursday, her birthday was still four days away.

Today, Williams turns 109 years old.

Entering through the back door of her Meader Street home, one might notice that someone's been canning. Jars and jars of home-preserved foods line her counter. Possibly the work of one of her daughters.

Shelves near the comfy chair in her bedroom are lined with photos, some of them old, some of them new - such as the school pictures of her great- and great-great-grandchildren.

Williams and her late husband, Murrison, had eight children - seven of whom were girls. Six are still living.

She never applied for her driver's license, though she tells the story of once attempting to drive when her and her husband's car got stuck in the mud. Williams got behind the wheel as her husband got out to push. She drove the car across the road and into a ditch.

"She could ride side-saddle and row a boat across the river, but she couldn't drive a car," her daughter Cena Hottel of Louisville said.

Williams' daughters take turns staying with their mother, helping to care for her.

"I could stay by myself if it wasn't for getting my food," Williams says.

Her personality is still lively after more than a century.

Ask Williams what the key to her longevity is and she answers, "Well, I've never worried. I'm not one to worry about things."

After a short pause, she softly adds: "And I knew that I was loved."

Hottel, who's taking a turn caring for her mother, says her mom's oldest brother lived to be 104.

"He never worried about anything," Hottel said. "He would walk around whistling."

Crocheting another stitch of the pink bookmark she's crafting, Williams quietly utters, "I will trust and not be afraid."

- Social Writer Neila Schuhmann can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 224 or by e-mail at cknj@cknj.com.

Birthday wishes

If you would like to send Lera Williams a greeting card in honor of her 109th birthday, you may mail it to 228 Meader St., Campbellsville, Ky. 42718.