Lillie Edwards moved with her family from Arkansas to near Bennington, Oklahoma, in a covered wagon around 1922. She was only 3 or 4 years old at the time, she recalls, and her hard life of working on the farm was already beginning.
That life almost ended before it got started as she survived the flu and whopping cough, a potentially lethal disease at the time, when she was only a year old. That was 98 years ago. She turned 99 on Saturday, Nov. 4.
She fully recovered from her childhood diseases, and soon found herself picking cotton with her mother and siblings as they did their part working the family farm.
She was 7 before her mom would let her go to school in a small community near Bennington. It was so small, she was going to be the only child in the eighth grade, so she was given a test and elevated to the ninth.
She lived south of Bokchito during the Depression, but her family never really noticed the hardships most of the country was going through.
“We always had plenty of food, and we made our own clothes,” she said. They never really needed much. “You know, gasoline was only 10 cents a gallon. Material [for clothes] was 7-8 cents a yard.”
In 1937, as the Depression was nearing its end and World War II was on the horizon, she married Claude Wilbur Edwards. They were married for 56 years until he died in 1993.
She moved to Durant in 2000 to be closer to her daughter, Betty Crawford. Her son, Claude Jr., lives in Bokchito.
“People asked me what’s the secret to living long,” she smiled. “I don’t really have any secrets.” However, she did admit that not smoking, drinking, or cussing may have helped.