Without hesitation, she grabbed another resident during a music program at Oak Brook Health Care Center in Whitehouse and moved with him to the tune “You Are My Sunshine.”
At the ripe age of 101, Ms. Billings always appears to be on the go.
She “gets around better than most 50-year-olds” and does crafts every day, said Shanna Kennedy, activities director for Oak Brook.
“She loves to do crafts. She doesn’t miss a craft class and doesn’t miss a bingo day.”
Ms. Billings used to paint ceramics, and some of her oil paintings hang in her room.
On her birthday, which is June 6, she still was a licensed driver and wanted to drive a convertible around the block, Ms. Kennedy said. She didn’t get to drive one, but she rode in one.
She also voted in the November election.
“When I took her to vote, that was the first thing she said, ‘I’m this old,’ and they were all amazed at how old she was, and they were all impressed she was still able to vote,” Ms. Kennedy said.
Ms. Billings said she previously voted for “whoever was doing the best job.”
Last fall, she also won several first place medals at the Senior Games — an event sponsored by the East Texas Chapter of Activity Professionals — and was honored as the 2011 Senior Day Queen at the East Texas State Fair.
She also plays piano and organ and enjoys sewing, cooking, traveling and writing.
Her daughter, Gwen Lackey, said when her mother started going to Lanes Chapel United Methodist Church, there were more than 40 members, and when a visitor came, church ladies would make a pie, and the visitor had to come back the next week and return the pie plate. Ms. Billings no longer can attend Lanes Chapel, but does attend services at Oak Brook.
Additionally, she reads her Bible each day and does crossword puzzles.
Ms. Billings was born in Missouri but came to Texas when her family moved here for warmer weather. She lived in the Dixie community, near the Tyler airport.
She later moved to Houston and took courses at San Jacinto College in Pasadena and another institution in Beaumont.
She said she studied language and English because she wanted to be a writer.
“I wanted to be a writer so I wrote stories and took English and writing in junior college. I didn’t get very far with my writing, as far as I wanted to, but I’m grateful to be around. (There are) things I think I want to do, (that) I’d love to do,” Ms. Billings said.
She has had two husbands in her lifetime. Her first husband was killed in an explosion, and eight years later, she married her second husband. He died eight years later.
She has two daughters — Ms. Lackey and Jerri Bossley — as well as two granddaughters, one great-granddaughter and one great-grandson. Whitehouse resident Nancy Coats also has been a big part of the family’s life.
Ms. Billings describes her life as “interesting.” The oldest of four children, her mother died when she was 15.
She said she accepted responsibility after that. Her father got up about 4:30 a.m. each day, knocked on her door and she would go to the kitchen and make buttermilk biscuits for her father and three brothers.
She characterized her father as “a politician (who) never was active but was involved in the social community.” Her mother, she said, was a quiet, religious person who was into music.
Ms. Billings said she is grateful for her health, and determination has kept her going throughout her life.
Ms. Billings’ secret to that good health? She drank a glass of wine with her dinner each night and didn’t smoke.
She also exercises daily, whether that means attending an exercise class or walking around Oak Brook.
“She is very, very, very active,” Ms. Kennedy said.
“She can kick her leg up higher than … me during those exercises.”
Ms. Kennedy said Ms. Billings is up and at it by 5 or 6 a.m. and “doesn’t stop all day.”
“If she sets her mind to something, she’s going to make it happen,” she said.
Ms. Billings, who has outlived her three brothers, had advice for others who want to live a long life: “Think good things and stay busy and be active where you can, and be helpful. Just be helpful.”