When Vera Williams was born, Woodrow Wilson was reelected as the 28th President of the United States.
Two decades later, Williams voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt as the 32nd President of the United States. She has lived through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.
But now, the tables have turned: Williams is making history as a centenarian. Recently, she celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday, June 16.
For nearly 20 years, Williams has lived at Silver Ridge Senior Apartments in Clovis. Susan Poole visits Williams on a weekly basis to accompany her to appointments.
“She’s very compassionate,” Poole said. “Very intelligent.”
Although Williams has been legally blind for decades, due to macular degeneration, her memory replays vivid pictures of her life. The Clovis centenarian was raised with two older sisters, Mary and Lena, and a younger brother, Nick.
“Her mom and dad emigrated from Russia,” Poole said.
In fact, her mom was pregnant with Lena during the transatlantic journey to Canada. Mary was a toddler. Her mom and dad spoke Russian so their No. 1 priority was to learn English when they arrived in Canada.
Williams was born in Canada, but moved with her family to California at a young age. They settled on a farm in Kerman. In 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, she graduated from Kerman High School.
“[Going to] college was impossible. I thought I was going to college,” Williams said. “The Great Depression was very deep.”
But Williams didn’t let money deter her dream of going to college. After she saved money by canning peaches, she attempted to register at Fresno State. Unfortunately, she wasn’t accepted to Fresno State — prompting her to move to the Bay Area.
“She loved San Francisco,” Poole said.
Williams met her husband, Roger Sr., while working at JCPenney in Redding. She remembers Roger Sr. working on the Shasta Dam, which stretches across the Sacramento River.
Shortly after getting married, they bought a home in Sharp Park — a neighborhood in Pacifica — for $3,000. Roger Sr. was drafted into the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army during the final stages of WWII; Williams was a stay-at-home mother to their son, Roger Jr.
“She was very devoted to their son,” Poole said.
Roger Jr. moved on to attend Occidental College, University of Southern California and University of California, Riverside.
Today, Roger Jr. and his wife operate Wildhaven Ranch in San Bernardino. After divorcing Roger Sr., Williams moved to Fresno. She lived at Glen Agnes Senior Housing before moving to Silver Ridge Senior Apartments.
The secret to longevity “isn’t a secret,” Williams said.
For more than 30 years, Williams maintained a healthy lifestyle by exercising at Gems Fitness For Women, socializing at the Clovis Senior Activity Center and volunteering for the Foster Grandparent Program.
Poole said Williams continues to attend a baptist church on a weekly basis.
“She’s a godly woman,” Poole said.