Willa Mae Moore might be the oldest person in the city of York, and perhaps in all of York County. She celebrated her 108th birthday on May 28.
According to Willa, the reason for her longevity is pretty simple. “Everybody knows I’ve served God,” she said. If there was any question about that, she adds: “I don’t go for any foolishness when it comes to serving the Lord.”
On Saturday, dozens of family members, friends and church members gathered to celebrate Willa’s 108th birthday at Alexander Park near York. They enjoyed food and cake, and they visited with Willa and shared stories about her life.
“We were all raised in the church,” said granddaughter Denise Moore, among the oldest generation of Willa’s grandchildren. “She’s a woman of love, a woman of caring. She’s awesome.”
Grandson Harry Williams, who was one of several grandchildren raised by Willa, said she took him to church not just on Sunday, but most other days of the week, too.
“She took me every day,” said Williams, who said Willa went to church for Sunday school, Wednesday meetings, Bible study, choir practice and more. “She took us with her.”
Willa dressed to the nines for church, in high heels and hats on Sunday. She insisted her grandchildren dress nicely, too; girls were not allowed to wear pants to church.
Willa Moore was born in 1907 in Earl, N.C. Her mother died when she was 18 months old, and she was raised in York by her grandparents, said daughter Barbara Lord of York.
She graduated from Jefferson High School and married the late Robert Moore. After her marriage, the couple lived in Pennsylvania and then New Jersey.
They had a large family, with 12 children, and Willa was a domestic worker, said Lord. She also did modeling for most of her life, both at church functions and other events.
Her husband died in 1965, and Willa moved to York around 2003. She lived in her own home until after her 100th birthday. Now she lives at White Oak Manor.
At White Oak, all the staff members and visitors alike know Willa as grandma. They call her that whether she’s really their grandmother or not, said Lord.
She’s a cheerful, happy lady with a sharp mind and good health, Lord said, and she still loves to sing her favorite hymns.
One of Willa’s favorite hymns is “Rough Side of the Mountain.” Some of the other hymns she enjoys are “Blessed Assurance” and “In the Garden.”
She still attends church at York’s New Home AME Zion Church, where she grew up, said the church pastor, the Rev. Carlton Brown.
“She has a wonderful spirit,” Brown said. “Her mind has always been sharp. She still has that quick wit.”
Brown said everyone at New Home enjoys seeing Willa when she is able to attend. “We don’t have to go anywhere to find heroes of our community, heroes of our church, because we have her to look to,” he said.
Jennifer Becknell • 803-329-4077