Mabel Williams embodies a spirit of strength and honorable living.

If you were to ask her family and friends about the Aiken resident, who recently celebrated her 101st birthday, they would say that Williams’ healthy living habits, concern for others, faith in God and her indefatigable work ethic have helped to sustain her for more than a century.

Williams also holds the distinction of being the longest serving parishioner at Second Baptist Church, having worshipped at the church for 90 years. She continues to do all of her own housework, and makes cakes for her neighbors when an untoward incident impacts their lives, such as a death, said Flossie Royans, her neighbor for more than half a century.

“I was baptized at Coker Springs Baptist Church,” said Williams. “Rev. Joe Jones was the pastor at Coker Springs Baptist Church. When I began attending Second Baptist Church, Rowan Miles was the pastor.”

Family has played a critical role in Williams’ life, as she had two daughters, one is deceased and the other lives in New Jersey. But, by being a strong matriarch, she has created a solid foundation for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Williams’ generosity has reached an extended family of friends and neighbors. Williams’ husband McKinley Williams was employed by the Graniteville Company.

Williams had a great influence on her granddaughter Novetta Robinson, who is now in the U.S. Army, and shares with whoever will listen that her grandmother is 101 years old. Williams is a breast and colon cancer survivor.

“She’s a very strong woman, and I attribute my strength to my grandmother,” said Novetta, who was raised by a working mother and grandmother. “She’s my hero. When I was in high school, I had to write a report about my hero, and I wrote about my grandmother. She’s been a great role model and my inspiration. She’s always been a positive person and has gone out of her way to help everybody.”

Williams has seen Aiken evolve over the years – from the infusion of Winter Colonists, the impact of the Savannah River Site and the exponential growth of the city. Williams had owned a house on Toole Hill, before relocating to the Shiloh Heights Community, a place she has called home for the past 55 years.

“I can remember when a lot of the Northern people came to Aiken,” said Williams, who recalls how SRS changed the complexion of the area. “There were a lot of people coming into Aiken from different places, who had different jobs because of DuPont at the plant, and the fiberglass factory. I’ve always had to work, so life has always been kind of pleasant. The main street in Aiken certainly doesn’t look the way it was when I was small. Aiken has really built up, it’s three times the size it was when I was growing up.”

Although she has lived in Aiken for the preponderance of her life, Williams lived and worked in New York City for five years, in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

“I worked up there everyday,” said Williams. “I was in Brooklyn first and then I moved to Jamaica (Queens).”

Nekia Robinson has a very close relationship with her great-grandmother, and even though she has been raised by her mother and father, Williams played a critical role in Nekia’s development during the first two years of her life, when her mother was stationed in South Korea.

“My great-grandmother is amazing,” said Nekia. “I’m blessed to say that I have a great-grandmother who is 101 years old. She takes care of herself, does the right thing and I think that’s why God has blessed her.”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.