This week, The Grenada Star spotlights 88-year-old Wanda Jean Willis of Grenada.
Q: When and where were you born?
A: I was born on Aug. 22, 1934, in Freedom.
Q: Who were your parents?
A: My father was Thomas A. Beckett and my mother was Fallie Burgess.
Q: What did your parents do for a living?
A: My father taught school and he owned his own cotton gin and farmed. My mother was a housewife and on occasions would help my dad with farming.
Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: There was six of us and I was the only girl. My brothers are Fredrick, James, Willie Joe, Sidney Dewayne and Thomas A. Beckett.
Q: Where did you attend school?
A: I went to Bruce High School and then attended Mississippi College for Women. I finished up at Ole Miss University.
Q: What do you recall most from your childhood?
A: We always had a lot of people around. It was never quiet. We always had something to do.
Q: Where have you lived?
A: I have lived in Freedom, Bruce, Columbus, Oxford and Grenada.
Q: What do you like most about Grenada?
A: This is my home. I am happy here. I have made lifetime friends and feel welcome everywhere I go here.
Q: What was your husband’s name?
A: I was married to Jack Thomas Willis.
Q: How long were you married?
A: We were married 53 years when he passed away.
Q: What made your spouse the one for you?
A: I just remember he would always chase me and try and talk to me. I finally gave in and let him take me out on a date. We always had a good time together.
Q: What advice do you give married couples for them to have a long, healthy marriage like you did?
A: Marriage is not a one-way street. You have got to love each other and take care of each other. It is a give and take.
Q: Do you have any children?
A: I have two boys, Robert Dewayne Willis and Jack Thomas Willis Jr.
Q: Where do your children live and what do they do for a living?
A: Robert lives in Grenada and took over Willis Engineering after Jack Thomas passed away and Tommy lives in Big Creek on the farm.
Q: Where do you attend church?
A: Before COVID-19, I attended Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Q: Where did you work? What was your role?
A: I was a medical tech for the Grenada Hospital. I was there when we had to do everything in the lab by hand. Technology came out making our job so much easier. I remember when I would check someone’s blood sugar, getting the reading took an hour. Now you see these monitors that read your sugar every five minutes. Technology and medical science has really come a long way.
Q: Do you have any grandchildren?
A: Jack has three children, Haley Middlebrook, Hannah Wilson and Jack T. Willis III. Robert has two daughters, Colby Kimmel and Robbie Wilson.
Q: Do you do a lot of traveling?
A: In the past, Jack and I loved to travel. We have been to Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Oregon and even Korea. We enjoyed traveling together.
Q: What inventions have you witnessed that intrigue you? Why?
A: I loved when the electric churn was invented. We made butter and ice cream all the time.
Q: What keeps you busy these days?
A: I have a whole bedroom full of family history. I love studying about my family history. I have charts, posters, maps, books, articles; you name it and I more than likely have it. I love looking and researching to see what I can find that is new and interesting.
Q: What is your favorite TV show and movie? Why?
A: We didn’t have TV when I was younger, we just listened to the radio, but my favorite movie now that we have TV would be “Gone With the Wind.”
Q: What advice would you like to give people on staying healthy?
A: Stay Active. Eat right. Let someone teach you how to sew a button on your shirt if you don’t know how too. Everyone needs to know how to do small things like that.
~ By Mandy Ayers