Hitting the century mark

Published 6:20 pm Thursday, September 15, 2005

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS - Her living room was filled with a collection of dolls, but the cutest one was in the chair, resting with her feet up.
Julia McGee turns 100 years old on Saturday. In her new rose-colored dress she is sure to be the prettiest one in the room, as her small home on North East Street fills with family and friends from 2 to 6 p.m.
With a sharp mind and quick recall, she can transport the listener back to her roots in Laurel, Miss., as the baby of the family - of 17 children.
Her mother, Carrie Jones, had already had a dozen children when she remarried Julia's dad, Ramson, and then had five more.
Julia's siblings are all dead now, as is Julia's daughter and granddaughter. She said a woman went down to the Salem church in Laurel and did some research and found Julia was the only one left.
Her love of dolls started young when their hair was made of grass. One time though, she had a real china doll, her mother had gotten for her.
Seeing it on a high shelf, she told her brother, "I want to play with it." he was one year older, probably about nine.
Julia admitted she was usually the one to get whipped. "I was bad," she said. "I knew I would get a whipping. I would go outside and pick a fight," with her siblings.
She fell in love after moving to Chicago - a town which also won her heart.
What she didn't want to do was move from Chicago, out of the big city, on his suggestion, to the little town of Cassopolis.
Olee died in 1996, after 17 years of marriage to Julia. He had retired from the Campbell Soup Company.
They had visited Cassopolis every Sunday, visiting Julia's sisters who lived there.
Though many of those relatives have died, including all her siblings, she has nieces and great-nieces like Helen Lee and Clara Lee, who continue to help in her care.
She hasn't been back to Mississippi "in 15 or 16 years, maybe longer.
She has been watching the destruction from Hurricane Katrina on the television. "I had to cut it off," she said. "It bothered me too much."
She is looking forward to her party on Saturday. She certainly doesn't want it to end up like her sister Gracie Mae's 100th birthday. She died a few days before the party, which became a wake.
"I love okra, peas and cornbread," she said.
She was never a smoker, but admitted, "If I didn't have no snuff - I almost went nuts."
She is a member of the Rev. Brown's Community Baptist Church.
Oh, and she does have a boyfriend. he is 72 and helps with her yard work and brings her the Chicago paper. "He doesn't even charge me," she added.