Happy birthday, Merry Christmas Nanny!
by By LAURA NATION-ATCHISON
Dec 23, 2011 | 5957 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jim Smothers/The Daily Home

Bertha Ansley of Talladega turned 104 Thursday, and had a constant flow of well wishers and visitors all day. Pictured with her above are Rep. Steve Hurst, left, and Talladega City Councilman Joe Ballow who delivered a proclamation to her for her special day.
Jim Smothers/The Daily Home Bertha Ansley of Talladega turned 104 Thursday, and had a constant flow of well wishers and visitors all day. Pictured with her above are Rep. Steve Hurst, left, and Talladega City Councilman Joe Ballow who delivered a proclamation to her for her special day.
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To say Bertha Ansley is a woman of many birthdays is sort of an understatement.

And to say that her birthday celebration gets a little on the large side, well, so is that.

Throw in the fact that her birthday, and by the way, it was her 104th Thursday, falls just three days before Christmas, and you really have a celebration.

It’s really a week-long deal, explains granddaughter Jenny Gilliland, who along with many other family members, travel from all over for the yearly occasion.

Gilliland comes from her home in Nashville every year, and said by noon Thursday, there had probably been 100 friends and family in and out of the house.

Part of the family’s tradition is decorating for Christmas, and they all join in and help get “Nanny’s” house ready for the celebration.

There’s always a big birthday banner out in front of her house in Talladega, and then, there are the Christmas decorations.

In her front hallway, there’s a big fat 12-foot Christmas tree, wrapped in swirls of plush red netting and filled with bunches of red and white poinsettias.

The family is quick to credit one Myra McKinney, who owns the floral and decorating shop Imagination in Talladega, with doing the big tree this year.

But there’s more, much more, in the way of holiday spirit in Nanny’s house.

Of course, the spirit of the people there is obvious, too, but the decorations don’t end with the great big welcoming tree.

Walk into the living room, where by the way, Nanny is surrounded by a constant flow of visitors surrounding her easy chair, and there’s another large tree, bursting with colored lights and ornaments and oh, this one twirls around and around.

There’s a pair of miniature trees placed by the front window and their twinkling lights add even more cheer.

The mantle is draped with greenery and other decorations and everyone is mingling around from the kitchen to the living room and inside and outside.

There’s lots of laughter and hugging, and Nanny has gotten up and scooted with her walker into the kitchen to see everyone, then she’s headed back to the living room to receive more company.

Here comes another telephone call, and she’s thanking someone else for calling, then hangs up and returns to those in the room.

Everyone knows what her favorite birthday gifts are, they’re green and they come in different denominations.

Nanny usually hauls in a good bit of loot on her birthday, she hasn’t counted it yet this year, but she knows exactly what she’s going to do with it.

“I’m going to pay bills and buy groceries,” she tells her visitors. “It costs so much just to live nowadays.”

That remark brings on a conversation with granddaughter Jenny about what things cost when she was a young woman.

“Well, a loaf of bread was a nickel, if you have one, and milk was free, we even gave it away,” she said. “I milked cows galore,” she recalls.

And speaking of groceries, there’s always a constant spread of “eats” at Nanny’s house for the birthday-Christmas blowout, from the oversized birthday cake decorated with sleighs and reindeer to ham and turkey and too many treats and sides to list, and someone in the crowd was on their way to get some barbecue to add to the offerings as well.

Nanny was born in Rockmart, Ga. and she was one of nine children in her family.

The family moved to Talladega when she was about 4-years-old.

She grew up in a farming family, and in addition to “milking cows galore,” had plenty of days picking cotton and taking care of other crops.

She was the first born in the family and along with the youngest born, Drammer Jarrell, are the only two left.

She’ll tell you about working in an upholstery shop during her younger years, and how she could get her hands on some of the most beautiful fabric.

She’s a sewer, and many of the pieces of fabric found their way into becoming quilts during her younger years.

That first job she got at Acme Knitting in Anniston paid her $7.20 a week. But is wasn’t long until Nanny heard about a job that paid better, she landed it and raised her salary by close to three times.

She married Austin Ansley in her late 20s, meeting him at a dance in Eastaboga.

Her husband-to-be played in the band that night, and Ansley still remembers how he kept looking at her that night.

They were married for 50 years until his death in 1986.

She was known around town for her gardening abilities and her tomatoes were always a favorite at family meals.

One of her specialties was making fried green tomatoes for those sitting at her table.

Dressed in a pretty pink wrap and smiling at any and all, Nanny gave her advice for having a long and happy life.

“People need to learn to keep their big mouths shut,” she said smiling. “Just keep from fussing and ripping and snorting! That’s something I have never done, getting all upset.”

And of all the festivities going on in the house she’s lived in for 40 years, Nanny had this to say, even though it happens every year.

“I just can’t believe it, it’s so beautiful,” she said, her clear blue eyes sparkling, and wiggling her toes.

All said and done, it was another very happy birthday for one very special centenarian-plus.

Contact Laura Nation-Atchison at lnation@dailyhome.com.