by Jannelle M. Walker, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Among the many lessons Mae Della Frison has learned over the last 100 years is the value – and pleasure – of sharing. A birthday party held recently at Macon (Tenn.) Missionary Baptist Church Fellowship Hall provided living proof.
Frison is the second eldest of eight children. The only other living sibling left beside her is her sister Beatrice Burose, who is 87. She has two daughters, Patricia Howell, 59, and Curtis Marie, X. Howell planned the birthday bash for Frison’s centennial celebration.
With family and well-wishers on hand, the 100th birthday party featured food and music aplenty, including the vocal talents of friends and Frison’s five-year-old great-granddaughter, Hailee Bell. Former pastors spoke of their association with Frison, who received gifts and a special presentation.
“You know it’s not too many people that live to see a 100,” said Renee Squires, Frison’s niece. “She (Howell) thought it was a good idea to throw a party and to just celebrate. … I mean it’s something not too many people will see in their lifetime, someone turning 100 years old.”
These days, mobility issues have Frison relying upon a wheelchair. Dementia, which she has had for about 15 years, has limited her short-term and long-term recall.
Mae Della Lewis was born on June 17, 1919 in Macon. In the late 1940s, she married Vanderbilt Frison, who died of a heart attack in 1986.
Primarily a homemaker, Howell also worked as a private sitter, staying with ill patients in their homes. Along the way, she served as an an usher for her church, Macon M.B.C, and later joined the mother’s ministry.
“She likes to tell jokes,” Howell said. “And if she asks you a question, and you don’t answer like she wants you too, she will add on to what she wants to put on there and make people laugh.”
For many years, Frison was known for baking cakes, particularly pineapple and chocolate fudge.
“She had a love for cooking cakes and letting the community, the church and family know that she has a cake at home, and you need to get some cake,” Howell said. “That went on for so many years like probably … up until she was 80. … Sometimes she would cook a whole cake for whoever wanted it.
“She just loves having people around her and stopping by her home and eating with her. She just likes sharing.”
Howell said her mother and father provided a stable, happy home that reflected the couple’s habit of doing things together.
Asked about the key(s) to her mother’s longevity, Howell first noted that her parents raised animals, ate the fruit from trees and grew their own food, routinely sharing with neighbors, who returned the hospitality.
“They made everything, their own jelly; they even made cider and stuff from fruits. Planting and all that stuff are what they did back in the ’60s when I came along. She never drank soda, milk or juice; it was just water.”
And while Frison, who has two grandchildren (Tricha Bell and Martin King), continues to eat healthily, Howell said her mother still does like her sweets.