BY DANZA JOHNSON
NEW ALBANY – As dozens of well-dressed people piled into the lobby of the Victory Life Center in New Albany Saturday, their smiles and joyful conversations hardly let on that they were at a funeral.
But because she spent her 115 years on earth making others happy, it was more than fitting that Bettie Rutherford Wilson's funeral was an occasion that made people smile.
“Bettie lived a good life,” Sam Bell of New Albany said as he viewed Wilson's body. “To live for 115 years and never make any enemies is amazing.
“This was a woman who loved life and who loved living. She wouldn't want us here today crying and screaming,” he said. “She'd want everyone to look at her and smile and remember all the good times she had on this earth.”
Wilson died Monday as the second-oldest person in the United States, and at first the crowd trickled in, but soon hundreds showed up a full hour before the funeral started.
As Wilson laid in her casket with her glasses lying beside her, people couldn't help but to comment on how she looked as if she was taking a nap.
“I know every time someone comes to a funeral, they say the deceased looks like they're sleeping,” said Amber Brady. “But she really looks like she's asleep.
“Mrs. Wilson was our own little celebrity. She was a person that never seeked fame, but when you live to be 100 plus years old, that's amazing. It's one thing to live to be 100, but to spend more than a century on earth making other's happy is amazing. She will really be missed,” Brady said.
Della Shorter, Wilson's great-granddaughter and caregiver, said “Mama Bettie” has been an inspiration in her life and that even though she knew this day was coming, it is still hard to let go. But, she said she knew that she was now free from pain and suffering.
Very few tears were shed at Wilson's funeral, just stories of how she touched people lives and inspired people to live life to the fullest. Sharon Goode was one of the inspired.
“I didn't know Mrs. Wilson, only what I'd read about her in the papers,” Goode said. “When I heard of this little old woman who was over 100 years old and still getting up and living everyday, it really helped me to put my life into perspective.
“We young people complain about everything, but here's a person who lived through some very trying times and did it for a century. I had to come and say good-bye to her. She truly was an inspiration.”
Contact Danza Johnson at 678-1585 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org