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Good attitude, faith her keys to life

Lena Mae Jackson of Clearwater gets by with a good attitude.

"I always had a very happy frame of mind. I was always thinking that tomorrow will be the greatest, most wonderful day of my life," she said. Even in moments of hardship, this attitude has enabled Mrs. Jackson to remain true to her faith in God and in life.

"I don't live in the past, I live in the now and in the future," she said.

Born Oct. 25, 1897, in Tampa, Mrs. Jackson was 14 when her mother died. She and a 2-year-old sister then went to live with an uncle in Alabama.

Her mother was a Christian who guided Mrs. Jackson into her lifelong faith in God.

"I like to be connected to the Greatest Power in the World," she said.

When she was 17, she married James William Jackson. They moved from Alabama to Dade City.

During the 1930s, Mrs. Jackson, an entrepreneur, owned a beauty salon and the Jolly Ginger Snap Tea Room both in Tarpon Springs.

When they moved to Washington, D.C., during World War II, Mrs. Jackson rented three adjacent row houses across from the Capitol and sublet them to boarders.

"I just knew how to cook," she said about feeding the 48 tenants who ate breakfast and dinner at her boarding houses each day.

She moved to St. Petersburg in 1950. Five years later her husband died.

In St. Petersburg, Mrs. Jackson worked as the manager of the candy department at William Henry Store on Central Avenue.

She moved into Top of the World in 1968.

Some of her favorite lifelong memories involve trips she took.

A train trip she took with American Express Travel went from Chicago to Los Angeles, and up the West Coast to Lake Louise in Canada. During the trip, buses would take passengers to area attractions along the route such as the Painted Desert in Arizona.

Of all of the changes in the United States during her lifetime, Mrs. Jackson mentioned that she is most concerned about how lifestyles are changing and diverting from one another. It used to be that people as a whole cared more about others, she says. "In the '20s and '30s we had so much fun going on picnics and swimming . . . there would be quilting parties, corn-shucking and other gatherings," she said.

According to Mrs. Jackson, nowadays people are very busy and their lifestyles are so different from one another that it is hard to gather as they did in the past. However, she said she has a lot of wonderful, caring friends.

But what of her own life? How does she explain her 100 years?

"I don't labor under things disagreeable. I need to bring comfort and ease to my mind," she said of her secrets to long life.

Most of all, Mrs. Jackson said she has relied on her faith in God as her Creator and in Jesus Christ as her Savior to let her live a good and long life.


Kenneth and Edna Gilchrist of Dunedin celebrated their 70th anniversary with family and friends at the Bill Irle Early Bird Dinner Theater, Clearwater.

They were married Sept. 19, 1927, in Bowling Green, Ohio. They started wintering here in 1970 and moved to Dunedin in 1989 from Davison, Mich.

Mrs. Gilchrist worked 26 years in the motor division of Buick, Flint, Mich. Gilchrist worked 20 years at Chevrolet and retired in 1970 from a Pontiac-Cadillac dealership. They are members of Curlew United Methodist Church, Palm Harbor. They have two children, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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Walter and Anne Swyers of Clearwater celebrated their 70th anniversary with a reception at the Salvation Army Community Center, Clearwater. They were married Sept. 30, 1927, in Manchester, N.H., and later moved here from Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

They worked 33 years for the Salvation Army before retiring in 1971. They are members of Salvation Army Church.

They served as Salvation Army officers and area commanders in Louisville, Ky., Baltimore, and Jacksonville. During World War II they served as USO Directors in Lawton, Okla.

They have five children.