Lizetta Pierce, 101 years loved and celebrated

Published 8:27 am Monday, October 28, 2019

Submitted by Kristy Baker

Lipstick and laughter. Who would have suspected that this combination might prove to be the fountain of youth? Not Lizetta Pierce, who shakes her head and chuckles when asked if this is her secret to longevity. Instead, Lizetta will tell you that it is by God’s favor she celebrated her 101st birthday October 23. She asserts that working hard, having a good attitude, and being kind to people also factor into her having lived such a long and blessed life.

Although Lizetta’s life has been greatly blessed, it hasn’t always been easy. She was born to Cecil and Amanda Nidiffer Hyder on October 23, 1918, just weeks before the end of World War I. It was during the Great Depression that she and her nine siblings grew up on a small farm in the Stoney Creek community. In 1935, Lizetta’s mother died, leaving a then 16-year-old Lizetta with no choice but to quit school and care for her five younger siblings. Even after marrying Paul Pierce in 1937, Lizetta continued to care for her brothers and sisters. It was during World War II that Paul and Lizetta’s family would grow to include their own children. Dallas “Shirel” came first, followed by Pauletta, Vernon Jack “VJ,” Sue, and Marvin. Tragically, VJ became ill and passed away when he was less than one year old. Tragedy would strike again in 1974, when Marvin was killed in a motorcycle accident not long after returning home from the Air Force. In 2000, Lizetta, then a widow, would lose her eldest son, Shirel. Lizetta credits her ability to persevere through these losses to her faith and to the love of her family and friends. Undoubtedly, Lizetta’s unyielding work ethic also contributed to her ability to carry on through difficult times. Partially, as a means to help support her family and partially because she simply does not know how to be idle, Lizetta worked. When her children were young, Lizetta, along with her eldest, Shirel, ran an upholstery shop from the garage in their home in Dry Hollow. She also worked as an Avon lady. In later years, Lizetta worked at East Tennessee Undergarment, Levi’s, and North American Rayon Corporation. After retiring from NARC, she worked as a salesperson in Shirel’s furniture store. Even when she wasn’t on the clock, Lizetta never stopped working. She taught Sunday School. She grew and canned vegetables. She was a talented seamstress who made or altered clothes for anyone in need. She gave home perms. She mowed the lawn and repaired most anything in the house that needed repairing, from the plumbing to the roof.

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In 2001, Lizetta started working as the primary caregiver for her cousin, Earl Nidiffer. She was 83-years-old at the time and could have never imagined the laughs and adventures they would share as best friends over the coming years. Lizetta, along with her daughters, continued to lovingly care for Earl until he passed away in 2014 at 103 years of age. Finally, at 96-years-old, Lizetta retired. This spunky lady, however, has yet to slow down. To this day, she’s up before dawn and has had breakfast and washed a load of laundry long before most of us awaken. She still enjoys tidying her house, shopping with her daughters, and taking advantage of Taco Tuesday. Most of all, though, Lizetta enjoys laughing and making others laugh.

For her 100th birthday last year, Lizetta’s family honored her with a surprise birthday celebration. Aside from the food, the decorations, and the radiant guest of honor herself, the most memorable thing about the gathering was the noise. That is if you consider uproarious laughter to be noise. As over a hundred guests shared their fond memories and funny tales of misadventures with Lizetta, laughter spilled from every corner of the room. Hugs and heartfelt conversations were plentiful but that number could not begin to compare to the smiles and laughter that surrounded Lizetta on her special day. Well-wishes not spoken were written down on cards for her to read later. Words such as godly, feisty, unflappable, light-hearted, resilient, elegant, tough, faithful, mischievous, and kind were penned over and over again. If you’ve spent even a moment with Lizetta, you’ll quickly realize that all these descriptors, though somewhat paradoxical, are true. You’ll also become instantly aware you just can’t help but to love her.

If you’re fortunate enough to visit with Lizetta for any length of time, you’ll notice many things about her that are striking. You’ll note that she’s dressed neat as a pin, completely color-coordinated down to her lipstick, which she never goes without. In fact, her daughters joke that if their mother is not wearing lipstick or earrings, something must be terribly wrong. You’ll also notice that, even amid the lines and wrinkles, Lizetta’s skin is radiant (which she attributes to years of using Vitamin E oil on her face). There’s a sparkle in her eyes and a certain mischievous quality to her smile that makes her look, as she likes to say, “not a day over 80.” You’ll learn that Lizetta loves to talk about her family. It’s a family which now includes two daughters, three grand-daughters, six great-grandsons, two great-great-granddaughters, numerous nieces, nephews, in-laws, “greats-,” friends, neighbors, caregivers, and members of her church families. You’ll scratch your head and wonder how she remembers all the things she does and you’ll laugh out loud as she describes many of the good-natured antics she’s been a part of over the years. You’ll realize just how much she loves all of the people with whom she’s shared the past 101 years and you’ll realize just how loved she is in return. And as your visit with this precious lady draws to a close, she will graciously stand to show you out. Despite your insistence that she needn’t get up, in true Lizetta fashion, she will anyway, using a bright blue walker that she calls her Cadillac to slowly walk you to the door. Driving away, you’ll see her flash her rose-colored smile as she playfully waves goodbye and you won’t be able to keep from wondering if a magical combination of lipstick and laughter might not just be the fountain of youth after all.