BC woman celebrates 100 years
In 1913 Woodrow Wilson was president, the average cost of a house $5,935 and in a Urania, La. twin girls, Lessie and Stella, were born to Dora and Wesley Mayes.
On Sunday, June 23, Lessie Mayes Sterns, will celebrate her 100th birthday. Lessie has lived in Bridge City about 66 years.
Lessie married Daymon Quincy Sterns when she was 20 years old. They shared 64 years of wedded bliss until he died in 1998.
Lessie’s drive and determination carried her throughout life allowing her to cross the boundaries of what a woman was supposed to do. During the early years, she was well known in a small Louisiana town for enjoying sports. She loved to pole vault and play basketball. Lessie was “rough and tough” too. The story around town is she would get into fights, but not with the girls, instead she fought the boys. The postmaster would close the local post office so he could watch the fights after school.
Lessie would later meet the love of her life, at age 20 , and they would get married. They moved to Orange, Texas in 1947 and to Bridge City in 1947 where they bought 10 acres of land on Ferry Drive. After they moved to Orange, she worked at Consolidated Steel Shipyard until their move to Bridge City. Lessie put on pants and worked along side men without blinking an eye.
She helped to build their family house by mixing the concrete by hand. Initially they lived in a small white house in Bridge City, but they would later build a larger house in 1956 where she still resides today. Years later, they would sell part of their land. What was once farmland is now houses and streets. Quincy Street is named after Lessie’s husband.
Over the years they had five children, Billie, Bud, Jo, Judy and Jan. The children quickly learned the value of hard work when they worked in the large garden and tended to the various farm animals. Lessie’s ruby red tomatoes were well known in the area for their large size and delicious, juicy flavor. After the tomatoes were picked, they were carefully buffed like “fine china” to reveal their color and shine. The family would sell them to local grocers and later a simple sign in the yard was all that was needed for people to show up for her exceptional tomatoes.
As a homemaker, Lessie was an excellent seamstress. She made clothes not only for other children, but for other people as well. When her oldest daughter, Billie, got married, she made the bridal gown and dresses for the bridemaids too. Lessie made her own patterns and was known to create dresses she saw in local stores. Her daughters would tell her they needed a dress made and even though she had worked hard all day, she would work through the night and the dress was ready when they awoke in the morning.
But, her hard work and dedication was not always for family.
“Mom liked to do things for other people, whether it be cooking for them, sewing or taking care of someone if they were ill.,” said Jan. “She always saw the need and did her best to help.”
Lessie and Quincy were said not to be the openly affectionate type. But, their home was always filled with love. Each child knew when it was all said and done, they were deeply and truly loved. The simplest of gestures such as a decorated bicycle for Billie to ride in the parade was enough.
At one point in her life, Lessie decided she needed to make extra money, so she took a job selling encyclopedias door-to-door. She did this for three years and was the top seller because, “she believed in what she was doing.”
Age was not a factor in deciding what to do. Well up into her 70s, Lessie would climb any deer stand in order to shoot a deer. As a result, there were two mounted heads in her living room.
She was also a master of multi-tasking. She was cooking lunch for everyone one sunny day when she spotted her next prey. She quickly propped her shotgun on the railing of the porch and fired a shot, killing dinner.
Ove the years, her family has grown to include not only her five children, but also 10 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren on the way in the near future.
Her secret for living a long life is to “stay busy.” Lessie said people also need to “live a clean life” and “live for the Lord.”
Lessie raised her children to be strong in their faith. Going to church was not an option. She also has strived to set an example on right and wrong for generations to come. She may have evolved over time, but her faith in God has never wavered.
Her daughters remember a time when call waiting was not available. Their mother’s phone would be busy for hours while Lessie talked to Sister Terry and shared a Bible lesson.
Lessie may have slowed down in more recent years, but everyone knows, she is still the “boss.” She is also loved and admired by all who have had the privilege to share a moment in time with her.