ELIZABETHTOWN — The year was 1917. As the last czar in Russia abdicated, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin were vying for power. The U.S. government voted for America to enter WWI, while domestically, suffragettes were being imprisoned for protesting for women’s rights. Eight percent of American households had phones, and only 14 percent had bathtubs. The life expectancy of American men was 47 years, due in part to the top three causes of death: pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea. The average American worker made $200 to $400 annually, and eggs cost 14 cents per dozen.
This was the world Prudie Waddell, on Dec. 5 in Columbus County, entered. Born to Bollie and Alice Strickland, Waddell was the fourth of nine children and one of only two girls in the group. Like 94 percent of Americans at the time, she did not graduate high school, going only through sixth grade. Her fondest memories growing up were taking her brother Beamon’s bike and teaching herself to ride; playing hopscotch and Goosey, Goosey, Gander with other children as grownups sat on the porch in the evenings; and picking and sampling sweet strawberries as she drove the truck with them to the shed to be packed.
Her farming family moved to Georgia, where she would spend the next 62 years. She met and married Paul Waddell, and they made a life together for 34 years. Approximately 28 years of that life was spent working for Tetley Tea while the couple was raising two children.
North Carolina was calling her, however, and she returned to her roots eight years ago and currently resides in Elizabethtown at a nursing facility.
“She’s got her hearing and her vision, and her mind’s sharp,” said one nursing home employee. “She must have lived a good life to be blessed in that way.”
At least one hospice worker, however, believes if there’s a blessing, Waddell is the one providing it.
“I started volunteering thinking I would bless someone,” said Geneva, Waddell’s Lower Cape Fear Hospice volunteer. “She’s the one that blesses me, though … Every time I visit, she asks about my family and makes me feel good.”
Waddell has a deep faith and stated one of her wishes would be to learn more about the Lord’s work. A favorite Bible passage is Psalm 100, verses that call for praise to God. It says, it part, “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”
In addition for wanting to learn more about the Lord’s work, Waddell stated a desire to have better eyesight and to have more visitors at the nursing home.
“She loves having visitors,” stated Sally Shepard, Lower Cape Fear Hospice public relations specialist.
Today, Waddell spends her time at the nursing center watching TV and playing bingo.
“That isn’t a sin, is it?” she questioned of the latter.
On Tuesday, Waddell had a “This is Your Life“ celebration at Elizabethtown Nursing Center, complete with family, friends, Lower Cape Fear Hospice team members and volunteers, as well as fellow residents and staff of the nursing center. Bearing a “100 years old” tiara, Waddell had a specially requested lemon pound cake and opened presents fit for a centenarian: a handmade toboggan, a prayer shawl, and warm socks, to name a few.
“You give us that hope that the future can be beautiful for everyone,” Shepherd told the centenarian at the party.
“I don’t feel like I’m 100,” Waddell remarked. “I feel like I can get up and go to work every day. I’m not getting old.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.