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Marion woman celebrates 108 years

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JOYFUL NOISE: Irene Wiley is the center of attention while partygoers sing for her 108 birthday.
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ICING ON THE CAKE: Nurse Brenda McBride feeds Irene Wiley cake while Wiley’s cousin, Minnie Cole, talks with them at Wesleyan Health and Rehabilitation Center.

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

Everyone has a birthday, but not many people get to celebrate like Irene Wiley. She just turned 108 years old.

Wiley was born on May 18, 1911 in Tupelo, Mississippi, where she grew up going on adventures with her brothers and sisters.

She was married twice and had one son, who she happened to outlive.

In her youth, Wiley loved to fish. It didn’t matter where or what kind of fish she was after. She’d sit on the bank because she was afraid of boats, but that fear never stopped her.

“I didn’t miss a day, hardly,” Wiley said.

Now that she’s older, Wiley spends her time watching the birds in the Wesleyan Health & Rehabilitation Center’s aviary or going to church. Her faith follows her everywhere.

Wesleyan staff threw Wiley a birthday party earlier this week where they let her pick her own music. She requested the Williams Brothers, according to Rachel Lawson, one of the activities coordinators.

Wiley used to love singing along to gospel music.

“I can’t sing like I used to. Someone’s done something to my voice,” Wiley said.

“Well, it’s all joyful noise to the Lord,” Lawson said in response.

When she’s not in church, Wiley enjoys spending time with her family.

Her cousins Minnie and Clarence Cole come by to eat with her most days.

“It’s been such a blessing to have her here,” said Lillie Roebuck, Wiley’s niece. “She was always the aunt that liked adventure.”

From those adventures, Wiley has learned a lot about life. But her main philosophy is the golden rule: treat people right.

“She always says, ‘trust in the Lord,’” said Shannon Ferguson, a nurse at the facility.

Wiley is surprised she’s had such a long life. “Yeah, Lord, it’s hard to believe,” she said.

But her family and facility staff are glad to have her around.

At her party, she was surrounded by smiling faces. Dressed up in a feather boa and a pink crown, Wiley was the center of attention. A nurse even whisked her away to another party happening at the same time because those partygoers wanted to sing to her.

The party was made complete with cake, balloons and a few presents. Someone even bought Wiley a cozy blanket to keep her warm in her bed.

That blanket will come in handy because her family thinks she’ll be here for a while.

“Irene, you’ll be here until the Lord is ready to take you home. He doesn’t have a bed ready for you yet,” Roebuck said.