When you’re 111 years old, every day should be a media event — especially your birthday. Wash Wesley, a deacon at Maywood’s Second Baptist Church, celebrated his 111th birthday on January 25th in Oak Brook Terrace with family, friends and an ABC7 news crew. One of his keys to longevity may be a particularly difficult one for kids these days to learn: He’s never bored.
“If it ain’t one thing, there’s always something at the house you can do, always,” he told ABC7.
Here’s an extended write-up that the Sun-Times published on the occasion of Deacon Wesley’s 110th:
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Staff Reporteremail@example.com January 20, 2013 9:00PM
“I’m doing good, thank the Lord,” Wash Wesley said on the eve of his 110th birthday, as his family and church family crammed into a Maywood banquet hall to fete him.
Generations of nieces and nephews — including a great-great-great-great nephew of three months — and dear friends from the Second Baptist Church sang birthday wishes to Wesley, who turns 110 Monday.
“I’m here today with my great-uncle who’s made 110, wow!” 7-year-old Joshua Dickerson told the crowd over a microphone. The child turned to his great-great-great uncle: “I hope you keep on living, OK?”
Wesley’s life has so far spanned 18 presidents. When he was born in rural Louisiana in the year he calls “nineteen-three,” Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House.
He was the baby of a family of six children born to farmers who grew cotton and corn. He worked his way through Mississippi and Texas and Oklahoma before settling in 1950 in Maywood where he lives today.
He retired from International Harvester. And he’s outlived both his wives. He never had any children, just scores of nieces and nephews he dearly loved.
Wesley’s voice is deep and deliberate, his skin decades smoother than how you’d imagine a centenarian’s, thanks to what goes on it: water, and sometimes Vaseline. His health is solid — except he got glasses in recent years to help him read his Bible.
“He’s better than me,” said Millie Booker, the great-niece who helps him out — when he lets her.
And there’s one reason Wesley believes he’s lived so long: God
“I wish for the Lord to keep me like he’s been,” was what Wesley asked for when he blew out his candles.
A holder of an Illinois driver’s license, Wesley still does his own grocery shopping, his own laundry, his own housework. He tends a garden in his backyard, growing vegetables and some flowers.
Wesley didn’t start cooking until his 80s, after his second wife got sick and he cared for her in the dining room of their home instead of putting her into a nursing home. But she ate what he cooked, and he kept at it.
“I like to be doing something all the time,” he said. “I sit down a while, I stand up a while. Then I do some work a while. I always have something to do.
“There’s something to do in the house all the time.”
And he amazes generations of relatives that have followed him and his friends from the Maywood church where he’s still a beloved deacon.
Like 78-year-old Florida Hayden, who told the party crowd she drove Wesley to vote in November, but she was the one who needed help getting out of the car. Wesley had scooted out of his seat and made it around the vehicle to assist her before she could get out on her own.
Wesley gets a birthday bash every year, ever since he turned 100. The friends will return next year, too, God willing.
“If God has something for you to do, he will avail you of the time to do it. he’ll give you ample opportunity and he will bless you with wisdom, with knowledge, talents, abilities, gifts so that you can get the job done,” said Rev. Donald Williams, who heads one of Wesley’s prayer groups.
“Deacon Wesley, we salute you, we thank God for you and we know your time will be extended if God still has something for you to do.” VFP