Symbol of Strength: One of Shelby County’s longest-living citizens reflects on 106 years

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Mississippi native Anna Mae Jeter is one of the oldest living Shelby County residents at the age of 106.

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

In North Memphis resides a woman that has witnessed more than 100 years of Mid-South history.
Anna Mae Jeter recently enjoyed her 106th New Year’s Day at her home on Garland Street in Memphis. The woman born on October 10, 1913 is now living in her 12th decade.
“I feel fine because for one, I thought I wouldn’t be here,”  she said. “But the good Lord spared me to be here. I feel like I might be here for I don’t know how many more years. It’s good to be old but it’s so inconvenient. I can tell you that, it’s inconvenient.”
Family friends, the daughter/mother combo of Dawn and Carolyn are frequent visitors of Jeter making sure she’s taken care of. A caregiver makes two stops during the week.
For the most part Jeter has her memory, wit and functional skills. Most of the care of Jeter is performed by her only child Sterling “Sonny” Jeter.
The 75-year-old Sonny is happy to share the stories about his mother growing up in Coldwater, Miss.
“The world has changed in so many ways and so many times I can’t tell,” Anna Mae said. “It’s a lot of difference from my coming up to now.
“The biggest change, I really don’t know,” she continued. “There have been so many big changes.”
Jeter was born decades before the first cell phone was invented in 1973. Now she is subject of various photo folders in many mobile phones since 2013 after celebrating her 100th birthday.
Sonny and family makes sure each year, Anna Mae’s birthdays are a major deal and public celebration.
Jeter reminisces at the parties about her gratefulness to be alive and how she has grown into the woman known as Madea.
“One thing that has changed is school when I was a girl,” she recalled, “I went to school many years with just a pencil. Didn’t know what a book was. That’s a big change.
“There was a time where I am from colored folks got the books once the white children got finished with it,” Jeter added. “Then we could get the book. I was a big ole girl, could have been married with children before I had a book. Parents believed in you going to school and to church on Sunday. That’s a big change right there.”
One consistent thing Jeter’s life has been her secret to life. Often visitors and those who meet her in public ask her that question.
“That’s a question I get all the time,” she said with a smile. “My secret for life is doing the best you can and trusting in the Lord. There’s nothing you can do without the Lord. Trust in the Lord, do the best you can and try to treat everybody right. That’s the biggest.”
That motto of life has helped the 106 year old live a blessed life and made her thankful.
“I am most proud of being living and having my one son because he’s so nice to me,” she said. “And having the good Lord have me be here, there’s nothing I can do without him.
“Be sure to treat everybody right,” Jeter concluded. “Don’t miss around and mistreat people. And thank God for Him being so to you. And you’ll make it. Don’t try to make it on your own because you can’t.”