CRESTVIEW — Velma Conyers has reached a milestone that few people do: turning age 104.
She’s still going strong too, according to her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Malcolm Haynes of Crestview.
"Up until two years ago, she lived by herself," Conyers' daughter said. "She loves her independence."
What’s a typical routine?
Well, Conyers tends to get up early, anywhere from 5-8 a.m.; dresses herself with little assistance; drinks a cup of black coffee with her breakfast; and goes about her day.
The centenarian enjoys working word puzzles, and spending time with family and friends. She still goes to Bible study and attends church almost every Sunday.
In fact, she does so well, health-wise, that in-home medical services aren't currently necessary, her daughter said.
The couple describes Conyers as a feisty, funny woman. "She makes you laugh — just her wit," Mary said. "She's still mentally very sharp."
What’s the secret to a long life? Conyers said:
•"You have to just be yourself and don't be doing all kind of things. Just take it easy."
•"Treat people like you want to be treated. (Life is) kind of rough nowadays, so you be nice. Have the love that you can help people and be nice yourself, and pray and ask the Lord to be with you and help you. If you do, you'll make it."
•"Ask the Lord to help you go through whatever you got to go through."
ABOUT CONYERS' LIFE
Charlie and Hattie G. Jones, Conyers' parents, moved to Crestview when Velma was 8 years old. They'd previously lived in Deerland, near Dorcas. She survived her parents, her oldest brother, Willie, and youngest brother, Albert.
She married James Robert Lee Conyers on March 31, 1929. The couple served as active members of the Crestview Masonic Lodge, in his case, and Order of the Eastern Star, in hers. The Masonic Lodge now bears his name, and the Order's name is now the Velma K. Conyers Chapter 7 Order of the Eastern Star.
She was Worthy Matron of the order for 45 years; her husband, who died in 1986, achieved a "final degree in Masonry Knights Templar ... Because of his many contributions to Prince Hall Affiliated Masonry and the community, he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanity from Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida," an Order of the Eastern Star document states.
Velma Conyers also received recognition for the support she provided to local African-American residents through the years.
"People stop by to (see her and) just thank her for how she has been a beacon in the community," Malcolm Haynes said. "At one time she worked in the lunchroom at the high school of Carver-Hill, and many people tell us if she hadn't been there, they wouldn't have eaten that day. She would see that they got fed if they couldn't afford it."
The couple's five children are Bobbie, James, Charlie, Mary and Freddie Conyers. They have 15 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.
The family and the JRL Conyers Masonic Lodge 364 will observe Velma Conyers’ birthday at noon March 18 at the lodge, located at 550 McDonald St., Crestview.
While her family considers her a blessing, they're not the only ones.
Visitors literally express their thanks for Mrs. Conyers and what she has done for residents in the African-American community in Crestview through the years.
Her daughter also mentioned that she headed and served as hostess when they had the USO in Crestview for the African-American community.
However, one of the best things about Conyers is how she is an example for her children and grandchildren for how to live; focusing on others before herself, according to her son-in-law.
"She's pretty much an inspiration to the family," Malcolm Haynes said.