KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Mamie Flanary Riddle says she’s never liked the spotlight, and has spent her whole life taking care of others.
“I haven’t known anything else. I didn’t know there was anything else,” said Riddle.
But she’ll receive some well-deserved attention this weekend. On Saturday the Kingsport resident will turn 100 years old.
Born October 12, 1919 in Speers Ferry, Virginia, she was the fifth of 11 children. A teenager during the Great Depression, Mamie Flanary made a promise.
“I’d stay with Mom and help raise my siblings,” she said. “They could marry and have a normal life if they wanted to, but I did not want to do housework. I’d rather be a career person.”
She found that career at the Kingsport JCPenney for forty years. She went from working the sales floor to being a supervisor. In those four decades at the department store, she only took seven (and a half) sick days.
“Hard work never hurt anybody,” Ridde said.
She simply went to work everyday and came home to care for sick family members. She never married, until one day, at age 58, she met a man named Mack Riddle in a grocery store parking lot.
“He was a wonderful person,” she said.
A widower with four children, Mack’s passion was organizing the Kingsport 4th of July parade for 45 years. Mack and Mamie married in 1978. She later cared for him when he suffered a stroke before passing away in 1999.
“He said, ‘Mamie for your size, you’re the strongest person I’ve ever seen,'” she said.
One hundred years of that strength will be celebrated on Saturday. Her friends and family are throwing her a birthday party at Food City. The family is keeping many details a surprise, but Riddle knows what she’ll be eating.
“They found out my favorite pie is butterscotch,” said Riddle. “They’re going to have butterscotch pie.”
Riddle doesn’t know how she’s been able to live to be a hundred. Her simple advice-
“Just do what’s right. And have faith.”
Riddle remembers her past, but always wonders what the future holds.
“I’ve said, ‘Mack, you know we’ve lived from the horse and buggy days to space travel in our lifetime. And then I wonder what the next hundred years will bring,” she said.
One thing is clear: they’ll never bring another quite like Mamie.