105 years old: Sarah McSweeney of Marion County reflects on a rich and exciting life

·4 min read

SILVER SPRINGS — Sarah McSweeney's lifetime has spanned two pandemics, the Great Depression, two world wars, a moon landing, broadcast television and the introduction of electronics like the laptop computer and cellphone.

But when McSweeney reflected on her 105 years recently at her Silver Springs home, she focused on her upbringing and hard work on her family's farm in Lincoln County, West Virginia.

She refers to laptops and cellphones as “gizmos.”

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Sarah McSweeney was born on June 30, 1917

A register of births at the West Virginia Archives & History, part of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, indicates Sarah Ann Brady was born to Pat Brady and Minnie (Plumley) Brady in Lincoln County on June 30, 1917.

Sarah McSweeney holds a picture of herself and her late husband, Verlin.
Sarah McSweeney holds a picture of herself and her late husband, Verlin.

McSweeney said the family farmhouse did not have electric power or indoor plumbing but did have a "big fireplace” when she was growing up.

McSweeney said her mother never had a cross word for anyone.

She described a "hard life," where survival depended upon growing your own vegetables, canning, and raising and butchering hogs.

"We raised what we ate," McSweeney said.

She recalled her family helping out a neighboring family in need.

McSweeney also can recall "walking two or three miles in the snow" to school.

She remembers President Herbert Hoover, who served from 1929 to 1933, and seeing the movie “Gone With The Wind” when it first came out.

President Herbert Hoover is shown in this 1954 file photo during a celebration of the former president's 80th birthday.
President Herbert Hoover is shown in this 1954 file photo during a celebration of the former president's 80th birthday.

About age 14, McSweeney married Leonard Kelly and she worked as a housekeeper and nanny and lived on her parents' farm when Leonard Kelly traveled in his work with the railroad.

The couple had two children: Jim, now 91; and Nancy (Kelly) Collins, who died in 2018 at age 86.

A second marriage

Sarah McSweeney’s first marriage dissolved and a marriage register at the West Virginia Archives and History Vital Records site states V.H. McSweeney and Sarah Kelly of Lincoln, West Virginia, were married on Jan. 31, 1944, in Huntington, West Virginia.

Verlin McSweeney died as the result of a car crash in 1952. A death certificate on the West Virginia Archives and History site states Verlin Holmes McSweeney, World War II veteran, whose “usual occupation” was truck driver, died at age 36.

Sarah McSweeney moved to Indianapolis in the early 1970s and worked as a custodian at Lynwood Elementary for 22 years.

According to McSweeney’s family, her status as a full-time worker in the 1970s enabled her to obtain a home mortgage at a time when it was difficult for single women to get financing.

A Marion County resident for about 30 years

McSweeney retired to the Silver Springs area about 30 years ago, where she currently lives independently.

Her son Jim, a Marine Corps veteran, and granddaughter Renee Kelly live next door.

The family gathered on Sarah McSweeney’s birthday for a party to mark the milestone. Her granddaughter Beverly (Collins) Edinger visited from her home in Indiana.

McSweeney said she never smoked or drank, and her Baptist faith is very important to her. She is a member of Eastern Star and enjoys listening to Gospel singing and gardening.

Her family members all say she has been a tireless and hard worker.

According to the family’s most recent count, Sarah McSweeney has 14 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, 45 great-great-grandchildren and 16 great-great-great grandchildren.

Family friend Carol Lane recalled about five years ago, when Sarah McSweeney attended Marion Senior Services group lunches in the area, McSweeney would get busy volunteering to clean up the room "with rag in hand,” Lane said.

McSweeney shared a story from her youth about her mother maintaining a fenced lettuce garden and the pretty flowers and greenery which would grow along the edge of the fence.

“We learned later it was marijuana. We were rich and didn’t know it,” she joked.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Marion County, Florida woman celebrates 105th birthday