Cullman native Maud Parker shares her secrets to a long, healthy life after celebrating her 103rd birthday

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(Photo contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Maud Nelyne Manning Medlock Parker celebrated her 103rd birthday on Wednesday, September 15. She had many wonderful memories to share with her friends and family Wednesday at her special party. Just as plentiful as the happy birthday wishes she received from everyone were requests for her secrets to great health and longevity. She was more than happy to share her wisdom. 

Ms. Parker was born in 1918 at Stout’s Mountain to John and Cuba Cora Manning. Her family soon relocated to the Phelan community. 

On the importance of community

 “The people all knew each other and had been living there for years and years and years. It was nice because they knew how important it was to keep their families together. The families stayed together and planned things together. Some things they could buy wholesale together to save money. They did things like that. We were thrifty.”

She continued, “Moving to Phelan was a good thing and they helped us to settle down and be happy. From the very start, they accepted us. We weren’t strangers and it didn’t take long until we were feeling good and talking to each other, finding out about each other and that was really important for us to do that right away. We were one group working together and everyone was successful. Nobody was against one another because they knew working together was the best way to make a living.” 

Maud Nelyne was the oldest of five children. She had two brothers and two sisters, and they grew up helping on their parents’ farm. She recalled days of chopping cotton and tending other crops. She also attended Pleasant Grove School and when it came time for high school, she went to Cullman High School and graduated in 1936. 

She married George Medlock, a young man whom she knew since they were kids, as they met at school. She smiled, “I knew him for so long. I think we could get along good together because we knew each other when we were in the cradle.” She asked her son, “Did my granddaddy know George?” He answered, “Yeah.” She laughed, “Well, that helped!” 

Maud with her little sister Beatrice and their grandfather. (Photos contributed)

On relationships

It helps for someone in your family to already know them. If they approve of that person, take their word first.”

“I never wanted any cross words said. I wanted everybody to be happy and enjoy life together. Life has been smooth as far as I know and that’s what I like. Grandpa Harris, I don’t think he ever had a cross word with grandma. He would growl around about things, but it never amounted to nothing.”

“Daddy never did open his mouth about nothing. He might have to the men, but he never did to us. I guess he wouldn’t worry the women and took care of the women folks. That’s how I think he looked at it.” 

On working and finances

They each worked outside their home but also found time to maintain wonderful gardens. Maud Nelyne spent over 20 years rolling cigars at King Edward’s. 

“I worked hard, made some money and put some money in the bank. By doing that, it made me feel good. Everybody ought to have to do that,” she said. 

As her generation did not believe in the concept of credit as today, she advised, “Whenever you want something, go to your stash and figure how much you’ve still got and whether you can afford to use it or not. If you can afford it, you go ahead and get it but if you can’t, you get straightened out about it, accept that you aren’t rich enough to get it yet. I think I need to start out being independent and stay that way!” 

On finding a home

You can’t always buy or fix or find places you want when you want it. Just be patient and look around all the time until you do find a place you want. It will come if you’ve got your eyes open. Don’t give up and keep your friends informed that you want a home. They’ll be looking and you’ll be looking.” 

On children and family

She and George had one child, Bill, in 1948. As Bill and his wife Sara visited this week from Florida, she offered this perspective on children and grandchildren, “The thing of it is, we can’t make your life. Me and your daddy had to make our own life. We would do it for you if we had to, but it wouldn’t be like you doing it. We would have helped if you needed help in a minute, but I hope each one can be independent.” 

“I am thrilled with my little family. Everybody needs to have a family–somebody to hold on to. You feel like you are tied down to the world if you don’t have a family.”

“I would rather someone else have the job to look after me than them be tied down. This is their time to be free of a lot of things. Life is short and you don’t want to waste it.”

On staying healthy

Maud Nelyne loved gardening and especially enjoyed tending to her daylilies. She was a member of the Daylily Society. When asked if she learned her gardening skills from her mother, she laughed and said, “I knew already!” She also loved to paint, exercise and collect rocks. She attended Hopewell Baptist Church every Sunday if possible. 

She credits staying busy and always moving as the reasons for continued health. At 103, her family says that she has never had any major health issues, no surgeries or procedures and takes only one type of prescription medication. “Vegetables also kept me healthy,” she added. 

She also believes attitude is another key to health and longevity. She said, “I just don’t worry over nothing. I try to take life the way God sends it to me. I do the best I can to live healthy and trust God to do the rest for me. I believe in God and teach my children to believe in God. He will take care of them if they ask Him to. I think it’s important to pray every day and pray that prayer that God will be there when danger comes and take care of your family. I think He will if you let Him. There might be times when He can’t, but He’ll help you to handle it. There are things that can’t be helped, and we have to accept it.” 

“We accept the things that the Good Lord decides we need to have happen for some reason we don’t understand. We don’t need to ground ourselves down to a nub worrying over things we don’t understand. We are lucky that the Good Lord is looking down over us letting us do our little do-dads. I hope everybody can live to a ripe old age and enjoys life and one another. Keep your families together. It’s important.” 

She said through tears, “They might not realize it, but there does come a time….” Choking back tears, she continued, “I never knew that families were so indispensable until I got older and we lost a member of our family. That made me wake up to that. Every single member of that family meant something precious.” 

Maud Nelyne remarried after the passing of George. She married Herman Parker when she was 68 and they were married for 30 years. She lived at her home on Golf Course Road tending to her flowers into her late 90’s. She now enjoys her friends at Country Living Assisted Living. 

Besides her son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Sara Medlock, she has two grandchildren: Ashley (Christa) Medlock and Meredith Dostert, and three great-grandchildren: Elliott Dostert, McKenzie Medlock and Emelia Dostert. 

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com