By Earl Heath, Contributing Writer
Many of us marvel at people that live to be one hundred-years-old. In the next few days there will be a bundle of knowledge, joy and wisdom who will be 104. She was born Helen Beatrice Cox on May 1st 1917 in Gibsland, Louisiana just outside of Shreveport.
It’s a small town best known for the Ambush Museum that got it’s name because that’s where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were gun down by more than 30 Southern lawmen. The actual spot is about a half mile from the home where Helen grew up in.
She was one of eight children and had a drive for life and a will to help people that was hard to match. She has survived the Swine Flu of 1918 and COVID-19 of 2020.
She has experienced the progression of America growth from the horse and buggy to the Model-T Ford into todays computerized age with social media laptops and cellphones.
While young she had a dream to attend college, however with seven other siblings her parents could not afford to and that left her with very few options. She made a life changing choice and decided to marry the love of her life Hardy J. Williams. In 1939 the couple migrated to Los Angeles where her first job was at Murphy’s Ranch in Whittier picking fruit.
They worked as a team as they pulled together enough money to create Williams Market at 41st and Compton Ave, in South Los Angeles. It later became Compton Refrigeration. It was one of the first Black owned business’s in the area.
All this occurred while Hardy worked in San Pedro at the Shipyard and later for the City of Los Angeles in the maintenance.
Helen was a mainstay in being creative within the family roots in Louisiana. She was a major part of making the heir property which came into the family in 1880 profitable. Some 240 acres is leased for oil mineral rights and grazing of animals in Louisiana. Leasing some of the land in Arcadia, to the “Safari” Hunting Club in La., also known as a Sportsman Paradise. It has produced income that assists with tax payment for several decades and that continues today.
The soon to be 104-year-old created a strong family foundation for three boys: Hardy J., Jimmy, Don and one daughter Sally Williams. She raised them and made sure they all attended college.
Sally went on to teach for forty-years in LAUSD. Jimmy retired after years with L.A. City Rec and Parks. Hardy became a high school football coach and Don worked as a speech therapist.
Her most enjoyable days came after they all graduated from college.
She has been a God Force and is presently the oldest living member of St. Paul Baptist Church located at 49th and Main St. She used her wisdom and the gift of giving to help so many.
Singer songwriter Billy Preston and sister Rodena Preston were members of St Paul’s. Billy was a talented musician.
As a youth Preston also had overnight stays in her home. She mentored the both of them on life-long lessons.
“What are you going to do with your music skills?” She’d say to a young Billy.
Preston talents rose so at 16 he went on to play with John, Paul, George and Ringo and was known as the “Fifth Beatle.” He later went on to release more than 15 albums.
Rodena went on to become Dr. Rodena Preston.
Blues great John Lee Hooker became a family friend and rented a trailer on the property. After spending weeks on the road he’d return to the comforts of home.
In the fifties and sixties Helen had developed sound relationships with the business’s on historic Central Ave.
The older she got the more she did for herself and community. She received her AA Degree from Southwest College and earned her B. S. Degree from Immaculate Heart University the age of 62.
She continued her hobbies of gardening and cooking. She wrote poems and created words in rhythmic patterns. One such poem “The Wheels of Justice“ caught the attention of Federal Judge the Honorable Spencer J Lett. He thought so much of the poem it now in on his Chamber wall.
Her latest poetry book “From Birth to Longevity” is published by Morris Publishing is a compilation of her experiences of her relationships with family, community and church.
You can listen to her lifetime interview on Archives Story-corps at the American Folklore Center in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Today Helen Williams currently lives in View Park section of Los Angeles in same the home she’s had since 1961. She has caretakers that assist her but she still composes Spoken Word Poems.
At 104 her reflection on life is with her grandchildren and great grandchildren they are a constant reminder. She once stated, “Being as giver is much better than being a taker, and you must Trust in God.”