Most 100-year-olds usually settle for a modest little party, sharing cake and punch with a few friends and health-care workers by their side.
Not Frances Eastes Wilson.
For her 100th birthday celebration last Saturday afternoon, Wilson chose to fly from Love Field and make her grand entrance, by helicopter onto the 75-acre campus of The Oaks Fellowship, Red Oak, accompanied by one of her sons, the Rev. Dr. Tom Wilson, senior pastor of the Oaks Fellowship of Oak Cliff and her daughter, Mary Wilson Keener, while her oldest son, the Rev. Vernon E.Wilson Jr., pastor of a church in Mesquite, awaited her on the ground.
She was promptly whisked away in a vintage 1963 Bentley, chauffeured by Waxahachie Mayor Pro Tem Ron Wilkinson, to the main entrance of the church where a crowd of over 400 people were awaiting the guest of honor as she walked into the church on a specially rolled out red carpet, flanked on both sides by her children, grand and great-grand children.
The Rev. Scott Wilson, Frances’ oldest grandson and senior pastor of the Oaks Fellowship of Red Oak along with his father, announced to the crowd that a brick bearing the elder Wilson’s name, would be the first of many bricks that would constitute what the church knows as “the pathway of faith,” which would be inlaid into the entrance to the church’s new sanctuary slated to open later this year.
“Granny is quite a lady,” said her grandson, the Rev. Dallas Wilson, who, along with his brother, the Rev. Bracey Wilson, is planting a church in Dennison. “She has always been very independent, and in fact, about four or five years ago, the family insisted that she quit driving because of concerns we had for her safety and the safety of others as well - and besides, insurance premiums were going crazy. But Granny went out and got her driver’s license renewed on her own just so she could show us that she could.”
In 1940, Frances was married to Waxahachie native, Vernon E. Wilson Sr., a graduate of Waxahachie High School and team member of the 1927 state champion baseball team. Vernon Jr. said when his father was a boy in Waxahachie, he stood on the street corner downtown selling the Waxahachie Daily Light.
For many years, the Rev. Vernon E. Wilson Sr. and his wife, Frances, lived in several locations throughout Texas where the senior Wilson was a pastor. According to her autobiography, “My First 100 Years,” the couple were married for 25 years, but the marriage was cut short when Vernon died suddenly of a massive heart attack in 1965.
“My mother … is very alert, articulate, exercises regularly and completes the (newspaper) crossword puzzle daily,” said the Rev. Tom Wilson, saying she celebrates very successful careers as court reporter, director of an abstract title company, legal secretary and executive assistant to presidents of companies, including the president of Citizens National Bank in Waxahachie back in the 1960s.
“She taught herself to use a computer after she was 90-years-old so she could compose her 260-page autobiography, “My First 100 Years,” which was recently published,” said the Rev. Tom Wilson.
Wilson said his mother is unique because she was independent and successful before her marriage at 30 in an era when young women were not often able to succeed in the business world.
When a member of a Dallas news media outlet asked her, upon her disembarking the helicopter, if she was scared during the flight, the feisty centenarian exclaimed, “No! Not at all - I was sitting by that handsome pilot!”
“The pianist, James Wilkins, (who provided background music for the gala), also appeared at the 100th birthday party of her father, George W. Eastes, Sr. in Dallas in 1964,” said Wilson.
During the reception, Mrs. Wilson autographed copies of her newly published book.
In response to the question about her secret to a long life, Frances said, “I believe it’s important to keep a good attitude, always walk with God, and stay active.”
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