Lois Simmons Ford was born 1928, and this past February, she celebrated twenty-three birthdays.
Born on a leap year during the height of the Great Depression, Lois, didn’t celebrate her birthday on an annual basis.
“My mother had me a birthday party when I was four,” Lois said. “I had nine brothers and sisters — my mother had so many and so often, that she didn’t bake a cake every time. We all knew that, and it didn’t bother me at all.”
Growing up, Lois’s family had little money – just enough put food on the table and a roof over their heads. She was thirteen when World War II started, and due to gas rationing, she had to quit the basketball team.
“It was a different world then,” Lois said. People didn’t go out much, but they found other ways to amuse themselves.
At home, her family played games — cards, Parcheesi, and others — and on her own time, she enjoyed reading.
Lois graduated from high school in Fairburn, Ga. and earned a scholarship to attend Georgia College in Milledgeville. After a year, when the scholarship funds were used up, she had to drop out.
Only two weeks later, she landed a Civil Service job working for the government. It was a typing job, and she had to take a test to get the position.
“I passed, and I thought it was great. I was going to make some money!” Lois said. “I kept working there for eight years until I had my first child.”
Lois met her husband Mason Eugene Ford through a friend that she worked with. “He came a long way to date me and it was constant. After 5 months, we married,” says Lois.
They married, March 1st, 1946 and Lois moved to Gwinnett where her husband was born. She has resided in Gwinnett for 74 years. All her children grew up in the county.
Her first-born child died thirty-six hours after it was born, but over the years, their family grew. Lois went on to give birth to three healthy children. Today, she has 4 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.
“[My daughter Gail] has two daughters and each has a set of twins — each a boy and a girl. It’s uncanny!” Lois said.
This year Lois turned ninety-two years old, but she will only have had 23 birthdays. Growing up, she didn’t notice much of a difference being born on a leap year. Most of the kids in school didn’t even know.
When she had her own family, Lois began celebrating her birthday on the 28th — her children would put on a party for her.
But she has a way of keeping track of her “real birthdays”.
“My birthday always lands on an election year,” Lois said. “I’ve been voting every year since I’ve been in Gwinnett at 18. I even voted last year when [the kids] didn’t mind me driving.”
To her children, Lois is ninety-two years old. Her youngest child, Marla Haynes, is her caretaker and companion. They still play cards and have the old Parcheesi game.
Marla said of her mother, “Over the past years, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized she’s my best friend. She was my first friend, and she’s always been my best friend.”
According to Marla, Lois’s memory is sharper than ever and as Lois said “[she] still [does] everything [she’s] supposed to do.”
When asked about how she feels being younger than her daughter, Lois joked, “I was always sad my body didn’t work with my birthday. It’s strange if you think about it.”