SIGNews • October 2011 • 17
102-Year-Old Deaf Woman Tells Her Life Story Delanne Woodall SIGNews staff writer Inez Johnson Waller, a 102-year-old deaf woman, told her story to SIGNews, about her life, how it was like for her, her family and how her deafness was not a barrier. Waller happens to be a distant cousin of the writer and was able to sit down in front of a videophone and give her story. She just celebrated her 102nd birthday last Aug. 2. Waller proudly said that she is a native of North Carolina, growing up in two towns, Gibsonville and Greensboro. Her family had to commute between those towns so that Waller’s father could work. Waller was born with severe hearing loss and could not recount on the reason why she became deaf. Her mother, Alice Johnson, could not recall any causes to Waller’s deafness. Waller admitted that it could be the genes. Waller believed that the “deaf genes” came from her grandfather who married a Perett who happened to be this writer’s grandmother. Her father, William Johnson, did not want his daughter to attend to a school for the deaf because of the fact that it was not nearby. Waller had two sisters, Evelyn and Jewel. Waller attended North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, N.C. and did not finish because she found the love of her life. She did not want to miss out on marrying the man! Waller ended up marrying the man in 1930. Her husband, John Edmund Waller, was a printer. John was from Virginia and he attended the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind.
What Was It Like Being Deaf Back Then?
When asked, “What was it like being deaf back then?” Waller responded with confidence that she did not have any problems being deaf in the heyday. She was able to get along with her neighbors and did not face or felt any frustrations because of her deafness. She said that she had everything, a marriage, and her hob-
bies of cooking, sewing clothes for her family, crocheting, knitting and collecting recipes. Waller also mentioned that she never experienced the feeling of “Oh I am deaf, poor me,” just because of her parents being always proud of her, not putting the deafness in between them. After the wedding in 1930, the Wallers decided to relocate by driving in a 1930 Ford truck, to Asheville, N.C. Waller fondly remembers how she struggled with shift stick during that trip. There was no automatic cars back then! The couple bought a home there in 1939 for only $3,800 and lived there for sixty-two years. Waller sold the house in 2001, after putting it on market for only a day! The couple had two children, John, Jr., and Nancy Mae. Her children went on to bring 8 grandchildren along with numerous great-grandchildren. Waller beamed with pride when asked about her family. Waller also mentioned that her husband wrote a book on the history of the Waller family. There were politicians who went on to contact Waller and her husband telling them that they are related to John. Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative was her husband’s third cousin. John’s two nieces were selected to be Miss North Carolina and Miss Tennessee in the same year! She also fondly remembers of being afraid while there was a riot in Havana, Cuba and that the fact that North Carolina was quite “too close” to Cuba and that things could happen.
What’s The Secret of Being Alive?
Waller shrugged off the question that was asked of her, on how she has kept herself alive for 102 years, saying that she had no secret. She bluntly said it was all about her faith in God. Waller also admitted that she was surprised that she has lived and enjoyed life that long. She also mentioned an irony when she was in high school. Waller wanted to play basketball but she was told she could not because of a weak heart. Waller
Oldest Deaf Skydiver? You Tell Us! Arvin Massey, 83, of Sioux Falls, S.D. went skydiving with his daughter, on Aug. 19 at Chicagoland Skydiving Center. Massey went on a thrilling ride of his life, skydiving at 14,000 feet! Massey wanted to share the photo that was taken of his experience with the SIGNews readers. It came to our attention that Massey could be the oldest deaf skydiver in the country! Tell us if we are wrong by writing a letter to the editor at 102 N. Krohn Place, Sioux Falls, S.D. 57103 or e-mail the editor at email@example.com! Also, SIGNews is very interested in collecting skydiving photos from you! Please e-mail a photo or mail a copy of the original photo, we will publish each one. We look forward to hearing from you!
Inez Johnson Waller just celebrated her 102nd birthday on Aug. 2. boasts about that, “Look at me. I am still alive.” Writer’s note: I had a great time interviewing her and would like to thank Inez for taking the time to sit down with me and allow me to learn more about her. It is really great, knowing that I have a 102-year-old distant cousin!