99-year-old living ‘wonderful’ life

Published 5:19 pm Monday, August 15, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When longtime Maylene resident Margaret Thames was born, automobiles were still an uncommon sight on Alabama’s roads, agriculture was the state’s major industry and Shelby County was little more than a few country homes and farmsteads.


Two world wars, a Great Depression and several moon landings later, Thames’ family members are planning to celebrate the long and storied life of the “terrific and loving” woman.

Dozens of Thames’ friends and family members will gather at Alabaster First United Methodist Church at 2 p.m. on Aug. 20 to celebrate her 99th birthday and the impact she has had on the community over the years.

“She is such an amazing woman,” said Wanda Braun, Thames’ daughter. “I believe the reason she is 99 years old is because people have loved her back over the years.

“She has not been pushed aside. She is still very involved in everything her family does,” Braun said.

Thames was born in 1912 in Washington County, where she became well-known for her farming skills.

“She was famous for her farming – her hoeing, actually. She sheared sheep, rode horses and herded cattle,” Braun said.

“I had a wonderful life growing up. I had the sweetest dad and mom in the world,” Thames said.

Thames later moved to Birmingham to attend business school, and met her husband at her first job with the Greyhound bus company.

In the mid 1970s, Thames and her husband moved from Birmingham to Maple Street in Maylene so they could have enough room to start a garden. Back then, it took about 20 minutes to commute from Maylene to downtown Birmingham, she said.

Shortly after the family moved to Maylene, Thames’ husband developed cancer and later died. The couple had four children, two of whom also contracted cancer.

“My husband and I were very fond of each other. We didn’t have any problems at all,” Thames said.

“Aunt Margaret has spent her life caring for family members,” said Birmingham resident Penny Benington, Thames’ niece.

In addition to helping to raise several generations of her family members, Thames said another one of her most memorable accomplishments came on the basketball court while she was playing for a Baptist church-associated league in Birmingham.

“The Boston Celtics came to Birmingham, and our team played against them and won the game,” Thames said with a laugh, noting she was named the game’s most valuable player and later received a Celtics jersey.

Another of Thames’ fondest memories came when a neighbor in Birmingham helped her family avoid hunger during the food-rationing era of World War II.

“We would get a coupon that would tell us what type of food we could get for a month or a week. One time, our coupon didn’t come, and a black man who got our coupon walked six blocks to get it to us,” Thames said. “I though that was so nice.”

For nearly a century, Thames said she has been blessed with loving friends and family members in Maylene, Birmingham and Washington County.

“I have had a wonderful life, and I still am,” Thames said.