By Emma Kent // Photos by Lauren Wood
We asked Corinth resident Leroy Worsham what the secret to living a long life is. His answer: He doesn’t know. “I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t decide that. If I decided that, I’d make it to 200.”
The 100-year-old celebrated his triple-digit birthday on November 14. “I come from a line of long-livers,” Worsham said. “We’ve got good genes.”
Perhaps it does boil down to good genes (most of the men in his family lived well into their 90s) or perhaps it’s his lively spirit and overwhelming gratitude for his life’s experiences.
Either way, he’s happy to wake up each morning and begin another day, each of which often consist of solving sudoku and jigsaw puzzles (he doesn’t care much for crosswords), reading the newspaper and drinking an astonishing amount of coffee.
“That’s all I drink,” he laughed.
The puzzles keep his mind sharp, especially since he doesn’t care much for reading, apart from the newspaper, of course.
“I haven’t read a book in 34 years,” Worsham said.
Even though turning 100 was a milestone — some would say a major milestone — Worsham said he feels the same as he did when he was 99. In fact, he visited his doctor upon turning 100, and he told him he wouldn’t need to return until next year.
“I can still get around,” he said. “I can’t run a race, but that’s OK with me.”
He’s always been this way, it seems, with the ability to keep moving forward with a positive attitude, even during his service in World War II.
Worsham has lived in Corinth his entire life, except for when he left at the age of 23 to serve in the Air Force.
That’s not to say he didn’t take his military service seriously, or that it wasn’t difficult. Quite the contrary, as evidenced by the medals and photographs adorning the walls throughout his home. Not to mention the detail with which he remembers exactly how long he spent serving in the war: Three years, three months and 20 days.
It’s just that he hasn’t allowed himself to be weighed down, he just lives each day, taking everything in stride. It seems to have worked out for him so far.
Staying close with his family has also kept Worsham going. Worsham and his brother even had a code they used while writing letters to each other during their military service to let them know where the other was stationed.
When he returned from the war, he married a girl from Corinth. Worsham said he realized he wanted to marry her when he saw her one time when he was home from the war.
“I had known her all of my life, but that was the first time I had seen her,” he said.
He later wrote her a letter telling her that when he got home he was going to marry her. Her name was Sarah.
“She didn’t believe me, but I did,” he said.
They were married for 64 years. Worsham has two daughters, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Besides his service in the military, family might be the most important thing in his life, and the thing that’s made his life so full.
All You Need is Love
“I call her the General,” Worsham joked, sharing his nickname for his caretaker, Diane on the day we visited with them. The two spend most every day together.
Diane said she’s never met someone who knew Worsham and didn’t love him.
Just one example: Worsham worked at the Coca-Cola plant in Corinth as a teenager, and on his 100th birthday, they threw him a party. More than 100 people showed up to celebrate with him.
And Worsham has made it a point to love others well, too. Several years ago, a young girl in Corinth had cancer, and Worsham wrote her pages upon pages of letters full of stories and messages to fill her time while she was in the hospital. Just recently, the two reconnected and she had written a song for Worsham, thanking him for the kind gesture.
He said he had just wanted to brighten her day. It’s that look-on-the-bright-side attitude that seems to sustain Worsham, even at a time in his life when he isn’t able to get out much.
“I don’t seem happy — I am happy,” he said. “I’ve had good health, I have somebody to look after me. I don’t have anything to worry about. I have children and grandchildren, I’ve got lots of friends — so everything’s fine.”
Maybe the secret to a long life is that simple.