Harue Jones is no fool, no siree.
She played it safe to be 103 years old, a milestone she began celebrating Thursday ahead of her actual birthday Friday. To be sure, no one will label that a premature decision.
Jones, the mother-in-law of former Knightdale mayor Billy Wilder, offered rather simple advice for others sharing Jiminy Cricket’s mutual desire to live a long, long life: stick to Diet Mountain Dew and forgo the alcoholic suds.
“I never could drink a beer,” Jones said Thursday, after four generations of kin gathered for a party at Smithfield’s Chicken ’N Bar-B-Q in Knightdale. She explained that the shrimp was her best option because her other favorite, pork, was a harder food to contend with at her age.
Few people at the Wellington care facility down U.S. 64 come close to Jones in age, though some can say they are in her ballpark of wisdom.
“You just have to keep trying – that’s all you have to do,” said Jones, who has clear intentions of reaching 104. “I ain’t got a thing in the world that’s standing in my way.”
Jones’ unique first name stemmed from a Chinese book her mother read about twin siblings.
In more than a century, Jones has heard of only one other person named Harue – a man from Roanoke Rapids whom she never met.
Jones grew up in the Rolesville area, where her father planted peanuts near the rock quarry.
“If I could sneak away and gig me out some, I’d eat ’em,” she said.
She has a clear memory of a time she was picking peanuts, perhaps when she shouldn’t have been, and had her first encounter with an airplane.
The Wright brothers’ first flight took place in 1903. Jones was born in 1914, and she thinks she might have been 7 years old when the first aircraft she had ever seen went overhead.
“I heard something coming, just a boom,” she recalled. “You’d never heard such a fuss in your life.”
Jones made a living working at Tant Studios in Raleigh, doing printing work for a local photographer, as well as in a school cafeteria in the Millbrook area. She enjoyed the school chef job more than any other.
That probably played into her involvement as a regular fried apple pie champion at Knightdale Baptist Church.
Nowadays, Jones likes to get in at least two games of bingo each week.
“I like winning,” which she said is a function of picking the right bingo cards.
Jones says she feels no different at 103 than she did at 100. But there’s always room for improvement – and she’s proof that people of all ages should seek that.
“I’m still trying to be a better person,” she said. “You just work a little harder, and make the world better than it ever was.”