Centenarians take year 2000 in stride

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2000

When the clock last struck midnight, Willie Ferguson and Florence Dixon became members of an elite group — people who have now lived in three centuries.

Ferguson, a Texas native who is staying at Professional Rehabilitation Hospital near Ferriday, La., is 104. Dixon, a Natchez resident, just turned 100 in September.

Of course, once you’ve lived to be 100 — through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights era and a host of other milestones — Y2K is barely a blip.

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&uot;I don’t see when the big deal is, really,&uot;&160;said Ferguson, taking the time to form each of his words slowly. &uot;If I’m still living, I’ll be doing good.&uot;

&uot;My children will be coming in, and I’m glad of that,&uot;&160;Dixon said. &uot;Other than that, I’ll just be fooling around here at home.&uot;

The milestones Ferguson has seen are many. He was the first black on the police force in Dallas, working for 25 cents a day — good money in those days. &uot;I never had any problems with civil rights,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;I&160;just treat everyone the way I’d want to be treated. And those that don’t follow that (philosophy), I&160;just stay away from.&uot;

He married Ruby Lee when he was 16 and she was 14. Their marriage lasted more than eight decades and produced six children – 10 fewer than Ferguson’s mother had.

After serving as a policeman, he chopped cotton for money, and bought a hand-cranked Model T in 1907 for $250. And he served in World Wars I and II, flying paratroopers into Europe.

One change Ferguson takes with a grain of salt is the proliferation of technology — radios, televisions sets, and now computers.

&uot;Technology is OK, but the biggest portion of what you see on TV is not true,&uot; he said. &uot;It depends on who’s telling it to you.&uot;

What Dixon remembers most about the beginning of the 20th century is not technology, although she is impressed by such progress. More than anything she remembers that people in the early part of the century had more than enough food to eat. &uot;They raised it all,&uot;&160;she said, adding that that is a contrast to today, when people have rushed into grocery stores to buy Y2K supplies.

Other than living by the Golden Rule, Ferguson said that making life’s big decisions carefully is the best key to living a long life.

Having good genes helps, though — his father lived to 106 and his uncle is reportedly 128 and now living with his fifth wife.

For her part, Dixon doesn’t take any medications and eats nearly everything that is bad for her. Her tried-and-true rule for living a long life, she said, is trust in God.