HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — If you have just 30 minutes to sit down and chat with Ms. Gussie Dennis, you will be transported back in time to when families like hers lived on a plantation in South Carolina picking cotton as sharecroppers.
Ms. Gussie turns 106 years old on August 10 and was born back in 1917 when Woodrow Wilson was president and the United States declared war on German ally Austria-Hungray.
Born Gussie Viola Evans to sharecroppers, Broadus Evans and Blanche Sullivan, her family included eight siblings all of which worked on a cotton plantation. Ms. Gussie explained her humble beginnings set her up for success later in life.
"God has provided a way for me to have to marry a nice man," Gussie said. "And he gave me three children and they never had a hungry day. God provided for me to have food and shelter. "
Ms. Gussie said she started working on a plantation in South Carolina at the young age of six. She recalled waking up to work on the farm from sun up to sun down.
"We work up until the big bell of the landlord's plantation and that bell said 'bing, bong," Gussie said explaining the lunch break in which she would sit under a large shaded tree. "We'd sit under that shaded tree until the bell would ring again."
Ms. Gussie said she would be out in the fields every day, despite the weather.
"We're going back to the field, I don't care if it's 199 degrees, you're gonna put on that straw hat," Gussie recalled.
Now in her home in Huntersville, sitting in her dark brown recliner, Ms. Gussie reflected on the life she lived and the life she has now.
"Oh, I'm so happy to have them all here," Ms. Gussie said looking around the room. "And I got my little grandboys and my great-grandkids."
And we had to ask Ms. Gussie the secret to living a long life. Her answer? Hard work and the Lord.
"Hard work and my heavenly Father," Ms. Gussie said.
Her family said that although she lived, studied, and worked in the Jim Crow South, Ms. Gussie saw the region and nation change during the civil rights era before she married her first husband Edward Taylor.
They lived in New Jersey and had three children. She became widowed after 40 years of marriage. Later she married for the second time to her childhood, sweetheart Willie Dennis who had been looking for her for several years. Upon the nuptials, Gussie Taylor Dennis moved to the Beverly Hills section of Los Angeles. When he died Taylor-Dennis moved in with her daughter, Denise Taylor, who also lived in Los Angeles. They made the ultimate decision to move to Huntersville to be closer to Dennis’ surviving sister and brother.