On Saturday, family from as far north as New York and as far south as Florida gathered at Williams’ humble Hephzibah home for this year’s celebration.
While the bulk of the party was outside, where people splashed in an inflatable slide and munched on grilled hamburgers, many piled into the living room to listen to the oldest-living matriarchs and patriarchs, all of whom are siblings.
In one chair sat 105-year-old Georgianna Brunson-Blocker, who came from Newark, N.J. Though her vision isn’t quite what it used to be, she relished in the opportunity to hear the familiar voices of her family.
“I can just imagine seeing the faces of the people here, and that’s warming,” said Brunson-Blocker, who was born in 1909 in Edgefield. “It makes you feel good thinking back to the good times.”
In a chair near the kitchen sat her sister, 107-year-old Lure Brunson-Ryan. She is one of 11 siblings and is the oldest of the surviving four, which include her brothers O’Neal Brunson Sr., 92, and James Willie Brunson, 95.
Brunson-Ryan sat with one hand on Calvin Dickerson, whom she had raised since he was 7 months old. Each time a new family member entered the room, her face lit up as she called out their name.
“I think it’s a pleasure to see everyone,” she said as she rocked backward into her chair.
Delores Jarrett, who called her aunts and uncles “walking encyclopedias,” said she’s fortunate to have living family members who experienced major events throughout the country’s history. The siblings survived the darkest days of the Great Depression and witnessed the ugliness of segregation.
In World War II, O’Neal Brunson Sr. served in the Air Force and James Brunson in the Army. Both earned honorable discharges.
“They have all the information that we need,” Jarrett said. “These are our history books, and we’ve tried to embrace that. I can ask them questions that I can’t ask a book.”
Williams said he’s been inspired by his aunts and uncles. They took him in when he needed advice and acted as parents after his mother, Sofia Brunson, died in 1974.
“If I ever needed something or wanted something, I would always go to them,” he said. “They would always advise me, and they were always wise counselors.”
Jarrett said the siblings’ willingness to travel has been nothing short of remarkable, but she said she feels more blessed that all four have survived to share their experiences. She said she hopes to live a life as long as theirs.
When asked about her secret to longevity, Brunson-Ryan laughed and looked up at the ceiling.
“There ain’t no secret to it,” she said. “God can do wonders.”