Miss Edith Ferrill celebrates a century this week. "I've enjoyed my life - every single minute of it," she said in an interview this past weekend.
The public is invited to her 100th birthday party Friday at George Regional Health and Rehab Center. Since 2012 she has resided at the nursing home. However, the home most locals associate with Miss Edith is the white, wood-framed, square house on the corner of Howard and Oak Streets. Miss Edith was born in that home on July 18, 1921, to Thomas Murray Ferrill and Eunice Stallworth Ferrill.
The house was built while her mother was pregnant with her. Her older siblings, the late Gladys Ferrill Brown and the late Thomas Ferrill, had been born in McLain in 1914 and 1916 respectively. Her father had been working at a bank in McLain when G.M. Luce offered him a job at the Bank of Lucedale, now known as Century Bank. G.M. Luce is the bank's founder. The town was named in his honor. After his passing in 1935, his son, Jex, became bank president. At that time, the bank was located on the corner of Main and Mill Streets. "I used to walk to work. It was only a block away," she said.
Miss Edith's early education took place at Lucedale School, located at that time just north of what is now Lucedale City Park. The building is long-gone but was in the general vicinity of the American Legion Hut. By the time she graduated high school a new school building had been constructed on Church Street on the campus now housing L.C. Hatcher Elementary. "There were 35 of us," she recalled of her classmates. After graduation, Miss Edith didn't want to attend college because she had had "enough of school." She went to work at the Bank of Lucedale and was trained by her father. She first performed secretarial duties, later becoming a teller. "Mr. Jex gave me $12 as my first pay," she recalled. "I didn't know I was going to get paid for that first week because I was just learning, just in training."
Miss Edith worked at the bank 1939-1986. She considered it a privilege saying, "They let me work in the bank for 47 years." Customers often waited patiently in her line even when other tellers were available because they enjoyed seeing her and entrusted her with their banking business.
In addition to her bank years other memorable moments of her life revolved around the First Baptist Church and music. She was baptized there at age 11. The building at that time was a wooden structure. Her mother played the organ. "It was a pump organ and my daddy would stand behind it and pump it while my mother played it."
The current brick structure was completed in 1947. Two years later the church bought a new pipe organ. Miss Edith asked the pastor at the time, Rev. Fred Moseley, who would play the organ. He replied, "You are." She had learned to play piano from her mother. However, she did not know how to play an organ.
Back then, the bank closed on Wednesday afternoons as did most businesses in Lucedale. Most of those closing on Wednesday afternoons would be open Saturdays for at least part of the day. Miss Edith took the bus every Wednesday afternoon to organ lessons at an Episcopal church in Mobile. She boarded the bus at Lucedale's bus station located adjacent to the original Coffee Pot Restaurant on the
southwest corner of Main and Mill Streets. These weekly trips began in spring 1949 lasting for six months.
For 62 years Miss Edith played morning and evening Sunday services. "The Lord let me play that organ until I came over here, and that was in 2012," she said.
She also played for youngsters during Sunday School sing time and for the First Baptist Weekday Education Program. It is impossible to count the number of birthday celebrations, weddings and funerals for which she played. She also taught piano to a number of local youths. After moving to the nursing home, she played the piano for residents each Thursday afternoon until the COVID-19 pandemic halted such activity in March 2020.
Miss Edith never married. "You see, if I had gotten married, what I would have missed," she said. She enjoys people. Even at age 100, her spirit is full of happiness and her words are always kindhearted.
Cards and letters may be sent to Miss Edith at P.O. Box 374, Lucedale, MS 39452. Friends can extend personal greetings and birthday wishes on Friday, July 16, at 10 a.m. at the front porch and lawn of the Health and Rehab Center. Refreshments will be provided.
Award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.