By Candace Marra
Sarah Collier lit up the room at Abundant Christian Living Community in Johnson City when she arrived as the guest of honor at her 106th birthday celebration. Her smile was contagious as she reflected on her life.
The former substitute schoolteacher was born and raised in Wise County, Virginia. She and her husband co-owned a furniture store. They had “one and a half” children: a daughter named Mason who was born to them naturally, and a son they adopted. Her son Bob admitted to being the “half” and chuckled, saying this was the first time he had heard that.
Sarah attended school in the 1920s. Her father worked for a coal company and drove a four-cylinder Buick to work. Sarah walked a mile to school. She picked up several classmates along the way, so they all arrived in a large group.
This may explain Sarah’s lifelong love of outdoor walking. According to her son Bob, for as long as he could remember, she and her friend walked two miles every day, rain or shine, as long as the temperature was above 20 degrees. The only thing that would stop her was snow and ice.
Tammy Potter, the events coordinator at Abundant Christian Living, said she still walks outdoors every day. Her caregiver, whose name is also Sarah, walks with her. If she ever tries to take a shortcut, Sarah Collier calls her on it and makes sure they walk the full lap every time. The two Sarahs enjoy a close friendship.
Sarah does not know how she has managed to live to 106 years old. “Just by living,” she said. She is the first person in her family to live past 100.
Her son is grateful he still has his mom with him. “I am amazed at how much she remembers,” he commented. He remembers his mom always having a positive outlook on life. He rarely saw her upset or angry.
He attributes her long life to her physically active lifestyle and remarked that she “ate like a bird.” She rarely ate junk food. When she did, it was in moderation. She likes chocolate.
The most noticeable quality about Sarah is her ability to become friends with everyone she meets. The large crowd that attended her birthday party emanated fondness for Sarah. She laughs easily and smiles a lot. According to her best friend’s daughter who groew up with her, she was a pillar in her community of Wise, Virginia. Sarah has been in Johnson City since 2005, and the people in Wise, Virginia still miss her and ask about her.
Sarah’s advice to young people is to be honest and obedient. She does not think life today is different from life in the 1920s. She has always embraced technology and even took a computer class in the 1980s.
Sarah’s love for people and especially her family is written all over her and was apparent in her last comment: “I want you to know I’m real proud of my son.”