Woman recalls life after 111 years
GOLDSBORO, N.C. — As of Sept. 7, Eunice Evelyn Greene is 111 years old.
A life that has spanned more than a century means she has witnessed more than a few changes — from automobiles to technology.
“Everything has changed,” she said, a smile spreading across her face. “When I first went to New York, it was $8 to get from Richmond to New York by train. I lived on Lexington Avenue in a cold water flat.”
Born in Petersburg, Va., on Sept. 8, 1902, she was 21 when she ventured to New York City to find work.
At 23, she met and married her husband, Thomas Greene, who worked with the post office.
The couple had three children and were married 39 years before he passed away.
“She was a trooper,” says her daughter, Thomasina Barnes, of Goldsboro. “We lived in Florida, we lived in Puerto Rico, we lived in Pennsylvania, the Poconos.
“After my father died, she lived by herself for a while and then she lived in Queens.”
Greene went on to live with Barnes, moving to Wayne County in 2002. She also has five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Two dozen family members converged on the Berry Street home late Friday afternoon, to reminisce and celebrate the life of their loved one.
“She’s extraordinary,” Dennis Barnes, her eldest grandchild, who lives in the Bronx, N.Y., said of the woman he affectionately called “Moms.”
“I remember coming home from school and she would fix my snack, would help me with homework because Mommy worked,” added his sister, Michelle Brantley, who lives in New Jersey.
“She was very loving. She helped raise most of the grandchildren. She helped raise me. I’m the youngest grandchild. She was in the home my entire youth.
“She’s always been a kind of caregiver, someone who encouraged others.”
Barnes said that the family may not have been wealthy, but they were rich in many ways.
“She could really stretch a dollar,” she said.
“Had to,” Dennis chimed in.
“In New York, we were privileged. She always found out about things like the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show,” she said. “We went to the Statue of Liberty. We thought it was an ocean liner. It was really a wonderful trip. We went to museums. She really afforded us in our circumstances, she really found out how to do things.”
The diminutive woman in the pale pink suit sitting in the midst of her family is still in good health, except for requiring a walker and the hearing loss that requires relatives to lean in and speak louder on her right side.
“Even though her hearing is poor and her eyesight is poor, she’s content,” Brantley said.
“She can’t read anymore and she can’t watch TV anymore. But she’s content.”
And while she may be moving a bit slower these days, her mind is still sharp, her family says.
“She doesn’t forget anything,” Brantley said. “It’s so scary.”
Over the years, Greene has regaled her family with stories of seeing presidents while living in New York, including Warren Harding and William Howard Taft, whom she recalled traveling through the city on a train.
But it is her faith that sustained her and anchored the family and for which she will perhaps most be remembered.
“To have her unconditional love is like one of the best gifts in this world,” Dennis’ wife, Carrise Holloway Barnes, said.
“She has a way of making everybody feel like they’re her favorite,” added Leila Barnes, Thomasina Barnes’ third child.
There is no big secret to her longevity, Greene said.
“Only the love of God,” she said. “I tried to do the best I could. I worked hard. I tried to help my sisters and my children and my grandchildren and everything.
“You have your ups and downs. But I loved my children. I loved all of them and they love me.”
Did she ever imagine living to be 111?
“Never!” she said, laughing. “I never thought I would be this old. Sometimes you feel like (that age) and sometimes you don’t.
“But I can’t sleep at night. I have trouble sleeping at night. My eyes just blink. But I thank God that he’s kept me alive.”
As party guests began to arrive, the best part of the gathering was not the cake or the possibility of a few presents. Greene said she just had one wish this birthday.
“Everybody enjoying themselves,” she said.
It also was her first time meeting the newest addition to the family, her great-great-grandson, Lennox Seven Carmack-Douglas, of Greensboro, born July 6.
And it provided a chance to witness what Greene is an expert at, her family said — unconditional love.
“She’s just wonderful with that,” said Leila.