Raeford woman turns 104, offers life advice

RAEFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- At 104 years old, Willie Mae McCain will tell you she wasn't allowed to go to school past the eighth grade, her first husband wasn't worth a nickel, and the television camera lights are just too bright.

From her Hoke County home Monday, McCain was flanked with waves of children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and church family coming through the front door.

"I'm 104 years old," McCain declared from her sitting chair in the den, "104 years old, and I'm still going strong. If I could walk, I'd be going stronger."

A mother of nine, five generations stem from McCain who vividly remembers working the cotton fields after eighth grade. By 16 she was married, but says her husband abandoned her with her first five children.

"My first husband wasn't worth a nickel," she said matter-of-factly.

McCain was in survival mode in the cotton fields of Hoke County. She laughs about her family mentioning record-breaking heat. Some tree shade did the trick back in the day.

"No dragging along when I was coming along. No...No....," she remembered.

"Oh Lord, yeah, it'd be so hot you know you could see the bulbs, look like, you know," McCain said, mimicking black dots in the air. "Yeah, if you didn't pick cotton, you didn't eat, 'cause that's the way we made our living."

At 64, McCain would go from cleaning other people's homes, to housekeeping at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

Although she'd find love again and have four more children before that, McCain she didn't remarry until her 80s. This time, she says, it was for companionship.

"I was in this house all alone," she remembered.

That marriage lasted six years before her younger husband's death.

McCain is an avid news watcher, but said there's too much violence today.

"Every Monday you turn that thing on and there are two, three killings," she said, referring to television news. "Didn't happen in my day."

People would benefit from listening to their elders, she added.

On her 100th birthday, McCain received recognition certificates from Gov. McCrory and President Obama. On her 101st birthday, her family took her on a trip to Florida. Nobody remembers last year, but on Saturday, McCain will celebrate 104 years like she celebrated 102 years.

"Oh, I'm going to K&W," McCain said excitedly. "My children are taking me to K&W. They know I liked that place 'cause you can go around and get what you want, and that you don't eat you can take with you."

You're most certainly invited, as well. Be in Fayetteville around 3 p.m.

"If ya'll wanna come with me Saturday to eat -- bring your money," McCain exclaimed. "I ain't got no money 'cause my children are feeding me."

Ask McCain about the future, and she'll tell you she'll be singing in church as long as she can, but it's okay if she doesn't see another birthday.

"How long do you want to live," asked her granddaughter, Stephanie Campbell.

"After I have my dinner Saturday, you can take me Sunday," McCain replied with a straight face.

Oh yeah? What's the secret?

"Living right all I know," McCain said. "Living for the Lord. That's all I know."

"Amen," said a den full of family and friends.

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