Sara Nance celebrates 97th birthday

Friday, May 16, 2003

Sara Nance of Manila celebrated her 97th birthday Thursday, May 8. One of her favorite things to do is to eat out and she was treated to lunch at a restaurant in Leachville by her two daughters, Dorothy "Gwen" Harrison and Jean DeFur. She received many nice cards and congratulations from her family and friends.

Nance has lived at the Manila Housing Authority since 1970 and has lived in the Manila area since she was 14 years old.

Born in 1906 in New Albany County, Miss., she came to Manila with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Beasley. She was one of five children, one brother and three sisters.

They came by train and were not sure where they would end up in Arkansas.

"Our mother was sick and someone told my dad that moving to Arkansas could be good for her. The train came to Manila and that is where we stayed. Mother died about a year after we got here," she remembers.

Nance recalls her first view of Manila.

"There were only two or three buildings here and a lot of woods. The streets were all dirt and there were very few houses. There were old barns and chicken houses. We worked clearing new ground and any other work we could get," she said. "In those days there were not any checks, you worked for what you got. I wish I had a $1 for every pound of cotton I picked and every row I chopped. I could own half the world. We planted everything we could get our hands on. We raised vegetables and we picked blackberries and dew berries. Nothing was ever wasted."

She married Herman Nance and they raised four children, two daughters and two sons.

Mr. Nance died in 1975 and both her sons, Junior Nance and Jimmy Nance, are deceased.

Due to a hunting accident when he was 14 years old, Mr. Nance only had one arm.

"That never stopped him. He could do anything he wanted to do. He worked in the fields, he hunted, he even served as town marshal for a time," Mrs. Nance said. "We ate well on wild game."

At one time during their early years they lived in a tent this side of Big Lake.

"It was a big tent. We had two beds, a wood cook stove, a table and a coal heating stove. We lived in the tent for about six months before we moved into a house," she recalls.

She also can give a first hand report of the 1937 overflow.

"The houses were not as good as they are today and we watched the water come up through the cracks in the floors," she said.

Mrs. Nance said she does not have a secret for living a long life. She has worked hard all of her life and depended on the Lord. She is a member of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Manila and still enjoys going to church.

She has seen a lot of changes in her time. She has gone from a rub board to a washing machine and said today is the good days.

"The good old days people talk about were hard. We have nearly frozen to death pulling cotton bolls. We did what we had to do," she said.

Mrs. Nance still enjoys cooking and taking care of her apartment. She enjoys visiting with her daughters and her daughter-in-law, Mary Lee Nance. She also has seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

"If the Lord lets me live another three years, I will celebrate a hundred," she said.

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