Margery Hankins with five generations of her family celebrating her 103rd birthday.

GREENFIELD – Margery Hankins turned 103 years old Tuesday, and she says she does not know why.

“I'm just running as fast as I can to keep away from the devil, so I don't stoke his fire,” Hankins said Wednesday. “I don't know what tomorrow will bring, so we count our blessings every day. I am not sure why I've lived this long, but I think the good Lord has a plan for me.”

Hankins has been a resident of Greenfield for most of her life. She has lived in her current residence for the last 30 years. She was able to celebrate turning 103 with five generations of her family, including her great granddaughter, Riverbender.com salesperson and Alton Main Street Promotions Committee Co-Chair Ellissa Sexton, and Sexton's daughter, Nora, who represents the fifth generation of Hankins's progeny. She said she is concerned for the world her great-great grandchildren may inherit.

“You can't even imagine the change I have seen,” Hankins said. “I am very concerned about our nation, and the plastic in the landfills and our waterways are contaminated by all our progress. What's my fifth generation going to experience when they turn 21? They may be living on top of a garbage dump.”

Despite this seemingly ominous message, Hankins is a very happy and grateful person. She said news of her birthday and centennial status has garnered all sorts of fellowship, treats and cards from across both Greenfield and Macoupin County. She said the love and gratitude she feels for those people and their gifts are what keeps her in her beloved small town.

“Every church remembers me on holidays and my birthday,” she said, laughing. “I don't know if I deserve it, but I take it. We have a lot of empty houses and a lot of businesses have left, but we are still very fortunate in Greenfield. We have a nice grocery store and bank, and South Side Hardware does a lot, and we still have a library. Outside of buying clothes, we're pretty fortunate.”

A lot of changes have occurred in Greenfield since Hankins was a child traveling to school in a horse-drawn buggy or just on horseback. In fact, Hankins lived the old yarn of “I walked five miles through the snow to get to school,” because sometimes she did in fact walk five miles through the snow to get to school.

“I cannot imagine the change we have had,” she said. “I read an article yesterday about Anthony Bourdain committing suicide overseas. I thought, I enjoyed his programs on cable. I don't have a cellphone, but I do have TV. A lot of technology these days seems to be getting kids into a lot of problems, especially when I hear about all the suicide rates.”

When asked about what advice she would give her future generations, Hankins said she would like them to find a way to be concerned – not just about the nation, but also their states and counties and local governments.

Hankins said she also prefers not to live in the past, instead looking toward the future. Her grandfather, who was integral in establishing grain mills and an insurance company in Greenfield, lived to be 110. She said she is not sure how much longer the good Lord has left for her, but is alive and living to her fullest.

She still lives by herself, and has people who deliver her meals and help her around the house for a few hours a day. She stopped driving voluntarily at the age of 101 and a half and she now enjoys going to the grocery store with members of the community and watching television.

Reporter Cory Davenport can be reached via call or text at (618) 419-3046 or via email at cory@riverbender.com

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