Gulfport 111 Year Old Looks Forward To New Year

If your New Year's toast includes hope for a long life, there's someone you should meet. He'll probably be sleeping at midnight, but a Gulfport man still looks forward to another new year.

And he's already celebrated more than a century's worth.

"I can remember old folks discussing about Abraham Lincoln," said Mearly Ratliff, from his apartment in Gulfport.

And he isn't kidding.  The 111 year old has a still sharp mind and a fondness for history.

"Abraham Lincoln saved the nation and freed the people. He observed democracy. And the word democracy is a higher honor," said Ratliff.

He grew up in Tylertown, Mississippi, the oldest of 20 children. Two words describe that farm raised childhood.

"In growing up when I was a child, cotton and corn," he said.

His wisdom about living long is a simple one: It's up to the Lord. He does believe in hard work, like his own experience on the farm and the railroad.

"Railroad work. Work on the sections. And I did some steel work. Steel gang work. That was hard work. If you made a dollar, you earned that dollar," he recalled.

People and events from history can provide a pretty good perspective about one's age. Mr. Ratliff was born in 1893. That's when Thomas Edison was wrapping up construction of the first motion picture theater and Grover Cleveland was finishing his second term as President.

"We used to, in my time, had a horse and buggy. One seat. In front. Nowadays you've got a car. Seats behind and seats in front," he said.

Mr. Ratliff will celebrate the New Year quietly at home, enjoying the company of his daughter and a home cooked meal that includes his favorite sweet potato pie.

He doesn't plan on staying up past midnight.

"No sir. I don't stay up that late. I hit the bed pretty early," he said.