Watching Elizabeth Reynolds softly smile as her birthday party attendees greeted her Monday, it would seem that the party organizers were wrong about her age. She looked far younger than 103 years old, and her mind is still sharp as a tack.
You’d also be hard pressed to believe the petite-framed woman with perfect, snow white, coifed hair had also been a rough and tumble baseball — not softball — player and spent her entire life farming and ranching. The years and the work seemed to agree with her.
Reynolds’ nephew, Billy Clark, grinned broadly as a worker from Denison Nursing and Rehabilitation wheeled his only aunt into the room for her party. Her longtime hairstylist had just finished her eye-catching hair for the party.
“Every since I can remember, there were two things she was going to do during the week. One of them was go to church and the other was getting her hair fixed. Everything else may have been kind of up in the air, but those two things were going to happen regardless,” Clark said.
Reynolds was born in the Pink Hill community west of Bells, the daughter of Mack and Nell Ford. She was one of just two daughters born to the couple. Like all farming and ranching community members, Reynolds helped, milking cows, feeding the chickens, turkeys and pigs, and working in the cotton and corn fields.
“I like everything but the hogs. I hated feeding the hogs,” Reynolds said. “And you’d pour water in on them and they’d sling it all over you. … The day I was born was the first day cold enough that year to kill the hogs and so that was the one time my mother didn’t have to help them.”
Reynolds first attended the school in Pink Hill that went up to ninth grade. She then transferred to Sherman where she graduated. Before going to Sherman, she played for two years on a winning girls’ baseball team. Her nickname all through elementary and junior high was “Tin Lizzie” because she loved Model T Ford cars and her name was Elizabeth.
“I played first base on the baseball team. They told my grandnephew that I was playing baseball and he said I was playing softball. I said, ‘No! I was not. We didn’t even know there was such a thing as a softball. It was a baseball.’ … We beat everybody in the country,” Reynolds said.
Switching to Sherman was difficult.
“I was just lost and if you came from the country to a city school, they’d put you back a half a grade. They didn’t think we were as smart as the town kids,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds met her future husband, Elmer Reynolds at church. The two dated for about a year and married a few days before she turned 20. Since he had no car, most of their “dates” were sitting by the wood stove in the kitchen of the Reynolds home. After the marriage, Elmer moved into the farm house his bride was born and raised. He continued to farm and later went to work for the electrical co-ops bringing electricity to rural areas. The couple remained at the farm with her parents, as did Reynolds sister, her husband and their children. The Reynolds, who never had children, became second parents to her sister’s boys.
Even after all had gone on, Reynolds said she stayed on the farm alone until just a little over three years ago, at age 99, when a surgery forced her to moved into a facility for more specialized care.
Through the years, Reynolds worked mostly at home, but did serve as a cashier at Simpson’s Food Store in Bells for a few years, starting in 1961. She was as devoted to her church as she was the farm, attending Antioch Baptist Church where she served as the pianist for more than 60 years. She also worked with the church’s nursing home ministry.
Reynolds “got me started doing nursing home ministry,” Judy Johnson of Antioch Baptist Church said. “She did it for 40-something years and then, when she was about 95, asked me if I would take her place.”
Reynolds said she never thought she’d live to be 103. And she still greets the world with a contented smile.
Asked how to have a happy life, Reynolds answer was simple, “Find something you love to do and do it!”