Woman celebrates 100th birthday

ZANESVILLE - Helen Norris moved to Zanesville when she was 6 years old, and she stayed here for the next 94 years, through two floods, raising a family and countless changes to both the city and the world.

On Tuesday, she turns 100 years old.

She remembers her father-in-law buying her the first wringer-style washing machine she ever had in 1939; before that, everything had to be hand-washed. The wringer wasn't fun to use, she said, but it was much better than washing clothes and bedding by hand.

Outhouses were prevalent when she was a child, and she didn't have an indoor bathroom until she was grown and had children of her own in the mid-1950s. Using the outhouse, she said, was terrible.

"Everything's gotten better," Norris said.

And in the past century, Norris said, over and over, that she's lived a good life. She married young, at 16 years old, and raised six children with her husband, Edgar Norris, a pastor and engineer. Edgar Norris died in 1975, and their two sons and one of their daughters also have died.

She never remarried.

"I haven't found anybody I want," she said. "I always said I had to have someone as good as I had, or I didn't want it. I had a good marriage."

Norris has 26 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and even great-great-great-grandchildren. She lived on Jackson Street, then Lee Street and Park Street, and she's lived in her current home for the past 60 years.

In 1974, she and other members of the community got together and built the Church of God and Saints of Christ. Norris got out there and worked as well as helped serve meals with the other women. She still goes to church there every week.

For her birthday Tuesday, she received a note from the White House, a card from Gov. John Kasich and a proclamation from Zanesville that Sept. 13, 2016, be recognized as Helen Norris Day.

During the first few years of her life, she lived in Athens County. But Zanesville is a great place to live, she said, and after all this time, it's home.

"I had a nice life here," she said. "I had a good husband."

The area she lives now, on Woodlawn Avenue, used to be, and still is, to those who live there, a historical area of Zanesville. Norris' family was the first black family to move there, and for a long time, when people would knock on her door, they assumed she was the housekeeper and not the homeowner.

As a child, she used to sit with her mother on the front porch of their home. Now, her daughters Sarah Cole and Mary Cooper sit with her.

Norris attributes her longevity to simply taking care of herself. She doesn't eat much meat and never has. She doesn't smoke or drink. She had a good husband and a good family.

"Be around young people," she advised.


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