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Conyers woman celebrates 100th birthday today

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Mary Thomson walks into the living room of her Conyers home a bit slowly and carefully, but with enough ease and grace that it's difficult to believe she's lived for 100 years.

An Ohio native, Thomson, of German-Irish ancestry, said her mother lived to 97 and her grandfather lived into his 80s. She and her daughter, Audrey Briggs, agree that genetics probably plays a role in her longevity.

Still, at this age, some days are better than others, said Thomson.

"It's very tiring to be 100 years old," she said.

Thomson, born Feb. 20, 1911 on a farm near Wharton, Ohio, spent her formative years in Forest, Ohio, attending school and working on weekends at the family grocery store run by her father.

"I learned the business along with the elders," said Thomson, who added that the Great Depression didn't affect her family, though she remembers her father selling groceries on credit to others who fell on hard times.

The centenarian recalled when the family got electricity in their home, and when her father left the house one day in a horse and buggy and returned in a Model T Ford.

"I don't know what he did with the horse and buggy. I guess he could have traded it," Thomson said.

After graduation from high school in 1929, Thomson attended a beauty school and then opened her own beauty shop with a friend for a few years. When that closed, Thomson moved back to Forest.

During her teen years, Thomson met her future husband, H. Nelson "Doc" Thomson, during a youth gathering at Forest United Methodist Church. Mary and Doc married at a ceremony in her family's Forest home in 1931. Mary was 20, Doc 24.

"A nicer guy never lived," said Thomson, who remained married to her husband for 67 years until his death at age 91.

At 22, Thomson gave birth to her only child, Audrey. Mother and daughter spent the summer months by Lake Erie in a mobile home transported there by Doc Thomson each season. Eventually, the Thomsons bought a cottage on Indian Lake in Ohio.

When Audrey married and moved away, Thomson continued to lead a busy life. She cared for her aging mother, stayed active at Forest United Methodist Church, played bridge three times a week and enjoyed membership in the Order of the Eastern Stars, a fraternal organization for both men and women.

As Doc Thomson neared retirement, the couple began spending their winters in Florida to escape the snow of Ohio. The Florida trips became gathering points for the family, as Audrey and the Thomson's grandchildren would take turns visiting.

After Thomson's husband died, she continued to stay in the same Forest, Ohio, house lived in by three generations of her family. But six years ago, when Briggs told her mother that she needed to move from Pittsburgh to Conyers to help her daughter care for her children, Thomson decided to sell the house and come along.

"She said, 'That's too far. I'm coming with you,'" Briggs said.