In the 1960s, a newspaper in Rock Hill had an advertisement for free bowling classes. May Williams thought learning to bowl might be fun. Her husband had just sold their grocery story and didn’t like the idea of his wife working anywhere else, and Williams wanted something to do as she got older.
Half a century later, just days before her 103rd birthday, Williams can still be found at Strikers Family Sports Center in Rock Hill three days a week, bowling in three different leagues, keeping up with everyone around her and nearly running circles around some.
“Sometimes I have to drink a five-hour energy drink to keep up with her,” said Becky McSwain, Williams’ teammate in her Wednesday league. “She is absolutely amazing.”
Three days a week, Strikers manager Tamie Robbins watches Williams bowl. Three days a week, Robbins said she sees Williams boost other people’s energy and raise their confidence.
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“It’s a joy to see her come out because she’s so friendly, always dressed to the hilt like she’s always done her whole life,” Robbins said.
On this Wednesday, Williams was in white pants and a lavender sweater set, all decked out in pearls. Her bowling ball of choice, given to her by family members, is even white, like one giant pearl, matching her ensemble.
When asked if she’s any good at bowling, Williams says “No,” and then laughs.
But her teammates and Robbins tell another story, one in which Williams bowled a 164 a few weeks ago and frequently picks up strikes and spares, despite her physical limitations.
“She’ll roll her first ball and then she’ll ask us what’s left,” said teammate Kathy Partlow.
Beginning a few years ago, Williams started to struggle to see the pins at the end of the lane. Now, she rolls the ball more from muscle memory than from sight.
His mother is “peppy” and “remarkable,” said Vernon Williams, one of May Williams’ two sons.
“She’s pretty much an energizer bunny, you could say,” he said. “She keeps moving and keeps going.”
Vernon Williams’ wife, Joy, said that’s what’s kept her mother-in-law alive for so long.
“She stays busy doing what she does and loves,” Joy Williams said.
And though she turns 103 on Saturday, she doesn’t have plans to slow down any time soon.
“It is important to stay active because I don’t take any medicine or anything and I think that’s why I’ve lived so long,” May Williams said.
There’s no secret to living to 103, she said, but she’s pretty sure “the Lord has something to do with it.”