Over the past 103 years, there have been many life-changing inventions that most people can’t imagine living without, including cell phones, e-books and computers small enough to fit in a pocket. Nola Willoughby, 103, resident at Mustang Creek Estates of Burleson, remembers the times without electricity, times when her husband worked for 50 cents a day, and times she spent searching for jobs to support her and her daughter. Willoughby was born just a few months after WWI started and grew up on a farm in Missouri before moving to Texas in 1938. LaDena Drake, Willoughby’s granddaughter, describes her as a grateful person who overcame many challenges and still maintains her positivity and faith. Today, Willoughby, who worked until the age of 71 and lived through WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, the civil rights movement and more, reflects on her life and shares advice with younger generations.
“I grew up on a farm where our family grew everything we ate, and I’ve always tried to eat healthy,” said Willoughby. “As cliché as it might sound, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the key. It is important for younger people and seniors to exercise regularly. After I retired, I used to walk with my neighbor two miles a day to a local deli for coffee. I try my best to exercise a few times a week now too.”
While Willoughby always tried to stay active, she recalls tough times over the years, especially during the 1930s. Millions of people were unemployed, and she and her family had to move around while following her husband as he went from job to job. A construction worker by trade, his employment meant the family lived in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Texas. Willoughby was initially a stay-at-home mother, but eventually went to work after she and her husband divorced. Most of her life she worked as a cashier in different stores and businesses. When asked if there’s anything she wanted to accomplish and never did, Willoughby said, “education.” As a child, she had to walk 2 miles to get to a schoolhouse where one teacher taught all grades, and she stopped going to school after the eighth grade.
“My grandmother is a wise woman who I have so much to learn from,” said Drake. “After my mother passed away four years ago and my father passed shortly after, we went through a very difficult time, but it made us stronger and we grew even closer. She has always been there for me and my family. She always tells me to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. “
“Although I went through some very hard periods in my life, I feel blessed every day. I think God has a purpose for me and I am here fulfilling it. I just hope I am doing it right,” said Willoughby. “I would like everyone to know that they should live their life to the fullest, take it a day at a time and always treat others with respect. Try do your best with everything you do.”
Mustang Creek Estates – whose mission is to provide seniors with high-quality residential-style assisted living and memory care at an affordable price – has additional locations in Allen, Frisco and Keller. Recently, Mustang Creek Estates opened its newest senior living community in Sachse.