Laughter keeps 109-year-old going
March 5, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.
Updated March 4, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.
Tamer Lee Brooks Owens wrapped two hands around her friend's palm, her pink nail polish matching her pink "Happy Birthday" tiara.
"You look all dressed up today," her friend, Betty McMurray told her.
In the center of her living room, surrounded by friends and family celebrating her 109th birthday, Owens leaned back and laughed.
Laughter - the so-called "best medicine" and what guests speculated as the secret to her longevity - consumed the small house, where guests shared their memories of Owens.
"There's no secret," Owens countered. "I just took care of myself."
But McMurray, 83, said she calls her friend at least once a week and is always prepared to hear a few funny stories.
McMurray remembered a while back, when Owens recounted a time she fell down, hit an alert button, and several EMS personnel had to come to her home.
'"You know, I never seen so many men in one woman's bedroom,'" Owens had told McMurray.
"She has a good sense of humor," McMurray said. "Never complaining."
Meanwhile, Owens' niece, Betty Hicks, remembered the thin sugar cookies her aunt used to make.
"I remember we were out in the country, and she used to cook for us. But she also told us we were the baddest children she'd ever seen in her whole life," Hicks said to a roar of chuckles across the room.
When asked if her nieces really were that bad, Owens just closed her eyes, cracked a smile and gave two slow nods.
But when Hicks, 66, was in a car accident a few years ago, she said it was her aunt who was always by her side at the hospital.
"She's the one I always remember being there," Hicks said. "I shall never forget her for that."
What's more, Owens actually walked to DeTar Hospital to be by her niece's side.
"People always remember her as the lady that used to walk everywhere," Hicks said.
Another friend and former neighbor, Kathryn Combs, seconded that, saying she used to see Hicks walk to town sometimes twice a day.
"We just had a lot of fun," the 87-year-old told the room. "She is a sweet, precious friend."
Guests sang worship songs, said prayers and read a declaration from Mayor Will Armstrong declaring Feb. 15, 2011 as Tamer Lee Brooks Owens Day.
But Combs, whose sense of humor seems to keep up with Owens,' wasn't done yet.
"But she was always so bossy," Combs teased. "She wanted me to plant roses just because she was planting roses. I said, 'I'm not getting in that dirt!'"
The room again burst into laughter, and Owens again smiled and nodded.
"She's bossy, but she won't tell you a thing wrong," Hicks said.