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SPRING HOPE — Born the year American women won the right to vote, Susan Anna Allen is still going strong.
Allen celebrated her centennial birthday Sunday with family and friends at Red Oak Baptist Church in the Gold Valley community near Spring Hope.
A lifelong resident of the community, Allen was born Jan. 25, 1920, on a farm off of Liles Road, just a stretch from the church where she’s been a member for many years.
The Rev. J.B. Woodhouse became Red Oak’s pastor in 1980. He said Sunday he couldn’t believe that when he met Allen 40 years ago she had opened her house to help elderly people.
“She’s 60 and she’s helping the elderly,” Woodhouse said.
The story is indicative of Allen, a woman who has helped countless folks over her 100 years of existence.
“She is a strong, determined and dedicated woman,” Woodhouse said. “She has given so much herself to others with her service and love of God.”
In the 1920s and ’30s, Allen grew up on a farm raising cotton, corn, tobacco, chickens, cows, hogs and all sorts of vegetables. Her job as a child was churning milk for butter. The family had three mules she named Mary, Kate and Cora.
Allen graduated high school in 10th grade. She went on to study at Shaw University, Wilson Community College and Nash and Wilson Technical College. She also took Bible correspondence courses.
“I find her life to be interesting, full and long,” Woodhouse said. “I hope if I live as long that I will recall it with as much detail as Miss Anna.”
Allen said she remembers World War II, the civil rights movement and the first man on the moon as if they were yesterday. But she concerned herself more with doing what she could to help people she knew.
Allen spent a little time in New York working in a lace factory. She didn’t like that and moved back to North Carolina and went to work as a housekeeper for Josephus Daniels, owner of the News & Observer.
She said Sunday that working for Daniels was her favorite time in her life.
She worked for years at Devil Dog in Spring Hope, but when legs began to hurt, she opened her house to five seniors.
Allen has been secretary of the Tar River Association for half a century as well as an active member in several organizations. She has a wall of plaques for her distinguished service and awards for determination and dedication.
Allen just stopped driving a few months ago, Woodhouse said.
Allen has never married, has no children, still lives alone and has no cognitive impairment, said Georgie Winstead, a longtime friend and church member who organized the celebration.
As part of the Sunday worship service that recognized Allen’s years of civic service, the congregation sang two of Allen’s favorite hymns, “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art.”
Winstead said Allen is the first church member to reach 100 in the church’s history. Red Oak was founded in 1904, just 16 years before Allen was born.