Archived Story

Happy 107th birthday

Published 9:51pm Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Things were a bit different when Mary Elizabeth Bingham was born.

For example, there were no aircraft flying over her Surry County home at the time; Wilbur and Orville Wright had launched their little one-man airplane just a little less than two years previously. In fact, in that November of 1905, there would have been few cars in Surry County.

Miss Bingham, a resident today of Consulate Health Care in Windsor, celebrated her 107th birthday on Sunday. There were other famous people born the same year as she — fashion designer Christian Dior, Austrian singer Maria von Trapp, author Ayn Rand, actresses Joan Crawford and Clara Bow, actor Henry Fonda and German boxer Max Schmeling among them. She has outlived them all.

And what a life. Miss Bingham grew up doing farm work and singing in her church choir. At 21, she headed off to the Big Apple, where she lived with cousins and became a maid. She stayed there until the 1970s, when she returned to Virginia to help her mother.

During those years, she was a witness to two world wars and many smaller conflicts and conflagrations. She saw people give up horses and mules for cars and tractors. She watched those first wood-and-cloth airplanes turn into great metal birds thundering across the sky. She saw man’s dream of touching the moon fulfilled, and then some. She saw mankind master even the invisible airwaves, beaming words, pictures and music around the world.

The 20th century was a heady time for the world, and Miss Bingham was right there in the middle of it, at the end of it and (almost) at the beginning of it. We’re glad she’s here to tell her particular story about it, and we wish her a belated 107th birthday.

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