May Williams has had more milestones than most people reach in a lifetime.
Five years after her friends and family celebrated her 100th birthday, Williams was at the center of another major celebration at the Westminster Towers retirement community when she turned 105.
While some of the Towers’ younger residents arrived pushing walkers, Williams met them standing at the door in a red dress and pearls. Some of them bowl with her three times a week, or come from her “dance fever” class another two nights a week, or know her from one of her various other social outings.
“All through her 90s, she didn’t slow down for a second,” said Cynthia Vinson, Williams’ granddaughter. “It wouldn’t surprise me if she made it to 110.”
At her age, Williams has had these memorials more than once before. When she turned 100, her friends at the bowling alley gave her a bowling ball with her “younger” and “older” portraits brushed into it side-by-side, and not one but two pins signed by everyone she’s bowled with.
“People she doesn’t even know will come to her and say, ‘Can we take a picture with you?’” said Jenny Potter, Williams’ bowling partner for almost 30 years.
She took up the game about the time she retired from the grocery store run by her husband, Jim. Her stamina and persistence have impressed the younger players on her team.
“She never stops moving. Even when she hurt her knee, she kept going,” said Shari Mahan, another member of the bowling team. “And she never complains. When I’m at the bowling alley, I’m always saying, ‘My arm hurts. My finger hurts.’ But she never complains about anything.”
Next month, Williams’ five-person team is scheduled to compete for the league’s state championship in Rock Hill, which will require the centenarian to bowl three team games and a singles and a doubles competition all in one day. She seemed undaunted by the challenge.
“I used to go to all the tournaments, like I was one of the girls,” Williams said.
Her teammates still remember the tournament they played in Myrtle Beach, when they took her to the Hard Rock Cafe for the first time. She’s continued to bowl religiously even as her eyesight has declined.
“I can only see the red line, and then after I bowl, they tell me how many I have to pick up,” Williams said. “When I say I’m going to quit, they always say, ‘Oh, no, you’re not, either.’ They don’t care how good I am.”
Beulah Munn started taking bowling lessons with Williams all those years ago, but “I dropped out, and she’s never stopped since.
“She’s just got a great attitude,” Munn said. “She has a great outlook, even with her limited vision.”
Williams continued to bowl after she moved into Westminster Towers in 2008, around the time her husband passed away.
“I loved Jim,” Potter said. “I was fortunate to get to know them both.”
Through it all, Williams keeps going.
“I think she has a purpose,” Vinson said. “All her friends, her social connections, the mental and physical activity, it all gives her a reason to keep going.”
Nearby, Vinson’s 8-year-old daughter Noelle – Williams’ great-granddaughter – treated her great-grandmother’s latest milestone as an excuse to have some cake.
“She’s at an age where a double-digit birthday is a big deal,” she said. “A hundred is such a big number, I think it’s difficult for her to fathom.”