Wenona Hill Moorehead crossed the century mark on her birthday on July 13.
The 100-year-old Simpson County native was born in the D’Lo hospital in 1921, the middle child to her parents, Red and Hattie Hill.
D’Lo was a booming town during those days, thanks to the Finkbine Lumber Company. Moorehead spent the early years of her childhood just north of D’Lo in the Piney Woods community. Her family moved back to D’Lo when she was 11 years old due to the Great Depression.
In regards to her childhood home Moorehead said, “The family that lived there before had rickets; they ate rice all the time. When the bank closed, Dad used what he had to purchase the house and land that we grew up on. Dad managed to work some jobs; he worked at a sawmill. He managed to open a gas station and my mother would look after the store while he was away.”
She said, “We had the necessities and would always have a special Sunday dinner. We always had enough.”
Moorehead laughed and said, “We had enough. Now we didn’t have as much as the Joneses but we didn’t know the difference. We always had food and never went hungry and we were able to stay in school and graduate.”
Moorehead has a vivid memory of the town that helped raise her. She explained that Highway 49 and Old Highway 49 were not the main highways when she was growing up. Moorehead laughed as she remembered the highways and streets were not paved either. She remembers D’Lo being a thriving town that had just as much to offer as anywhere else in the MS. Moorehead said during her childhood D’Lo had a barbershop, movie theater, garages, grocery store, hardware store, two department stores, and a three story school. It was one of the larger towns between Jackson and Hattiesburg.
She smiled as shared stories of growing up in her family home and milking cows, feeding pigs, and tending to a garden.
She said, “We didn’t have TV and all of that when we were growing up so in the afternoon we didn’t have much to do so we’d take a nap. I’d always crawl under the bed and take a nap where it was cool.”
She shared a story of her father traveling with her aunt and cousins from Oregon in a touring car. Moorehead’s father and uncle found work in Oregon cutting lumber. Her father drove her uncle’s family back from Oregon to D’Lo MS in a touring car.
She smiled and said, “I remember it was a touring car and when he got home in that touring car he traded it for a cow.”
Moorehead was a graduate of D’Lo High School with the class of 1939-1940. Moorehead was a basketball player and would “jump center” to start the games. There were 10 students in her graduating class, five boys and five girls. Moorehead named them all Billy Roberts, Billy Thompson, Clyde Donald, Charles Kelso, James Robert Everett, Billie Ross, Mary Edith Gardner, Weddell Pickering, Virginia Valentine, and herself Wenona Hill.
D’Lo is famous for sending the most men per capita to serve during World War II. Moorehead said a lot of those men who went off to fight were her classmates. All three of her brothers served during WWII and all were fortunate enough to return.
Moorehead said, “I knew everyone who came back and everyone who didn’t.”
After graduation high school Moorehead went to work in Jackson with Colonial Bakery located on Highway 49. She remembered waking up early and catching a bus to work. She later went to work at Jitney Jungle on Gallatin Street in Jackson.
Wenona married her husband, Arlis Moorehead, in 1945 and they started a family in 1946. Moorehead and her family bought the house next door to where she grew up, and that is where she still lives today. She and her husband have two daughters; Dr. Faye Owens and Elaine Blossom, both are graduates of Mississippi State University. Owens now lives in Bolton MS and Blossom lives in Flora. She remembered taking several family vacations and visiting places such as the Smokey Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, and Pensacola Beach during their annual family vacations.
She said, “On Sundays we would go and visit relatives, that’s what we did. After church we’d visit family that lived in Alabama or Arkansas or on the coast.”
Moorehead went on to work at Universal Manufacturing Company which later became known as Magnetek for 20 year. She worked with the company from 1961 until retiring in 1981.
She is also a skilled seamstress. It was a hobby that she picked up early in life. She would often make clothing items for people in the community. She made ladies suits, wedding dresses, and formal dresses. She also enjoyed gardening. She and her husband maintained a big garden that provided them with fresh vegetables. She has been a member of the Baptist Church nearly all of her life where she served as church secretary and helped teach bible school in the past.
Wenona Moorehead celebrated her 100 birthday at the D’Lo Baptist Church Fellowship Hall where she was surrounded by family and friends. Moorehead has seen and experienced things that very few people are left to recount first hand. “All together it’s a different world.” She said.
She has ridden in an original Model T, used outdoor plumbing, lived through The Great Depression, and seen the horrors of World War II. She is a living witness of the best and worst times that the country has experienced over the last century. Her story is still being written.
At 100 years old Moorehead is proud that she still drives, is mobile, cooks her own meals, and is able to take care of herself with little assistance. She still visits the library and checks out books. Her favorite genres are mystery and romance and her favorite author is James Patterson. This helps keep her mind sharp along with tuning into Jeopardy every day at 3:30p.m. Moorehead gets her exercise in daily by walking laps in her driveway. She also does 15 leg lifts per leg each day to help her stay mobile.
She said, “I enjoy staying at home by myself. My niece Kay and her husband Donnie comes by and checks on me every day and my daughter comes every week. I’m blessed not to have to go into a nursing home.”
When asked of her secret to a long life she said, “I try to live right and eat right. I eat a lot of veggies and baked meat. I really don’t have to worry about anything. I’m at peace with the world and I enjoy living and try to be a very positive person.”
She shared the most important statement in closing.
Wenona Moorehead said, “God takes care of me.”