Culley celebrated her 100th birthday Saturday, making her one of fewer than 1,500 Georgians to become a centenarian, according to a survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau in 2010.
Culley was born and raised in eastern Maryland where she graduated from high school in 1931 and immediately began working at Montgomery Ward department store.
“I graduated high school back in 1931 and things were pretty tough then, like they are right now, so I didn’t get to go to college,” Culley recalled.
Culley met her husband, a native Georgian, at Montgomery Ward in 1935.
“They transferred in a young man from Georgia and he took a liking to me I reckon because he told somebody before I ever met him that he was going to marry me,” Culley said.
Culley and her husband married after a late-night movie showing shortly after they began dating. Culley said two of her friends talked her into marrying her husband.
“The wildest thing I ever did was to get married at midnight on New Year’s,” Culley said. “But it turned out pretty good! And we weren’t drinking either!”
Culley and her husband had two children, a daughter born in 1937 and a son born several years later.
Moving to Cobb and traveling cross-country
The Culleys moved to Cobb County in the mid-1940s and Culley began her 23-year career at Lockheed Martin in 1949, retiring in 1972. After her retirement, Culley and her husband began traveling the United States and Canada in their motor home.
“My husband decided he wanted to travel, so we had a motor home and we traveled around the states and into Canada,” Culley said. “He wouldn’t go to Mexico with me. If I wanted to go to Mexico I had to go by myself.”
Culley has three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Her eldest great-grandchild is 29 years old.
Culley said she could recall time periods and historical events that her great-grandchildren learned about in their high school history classes.
“I remember a night in 1918 before the war ended, I could remember people talking about those bad people over there, and they were talking about the Germans,” Culley recalled, referring to World War I.
Although she is now 100 years old, Culley hasn’t allowed common misconceptions about her age to prevent her from driving and living alone. Culley lives in a two-bedroom, two-bath home on the edge of Lost Mountain, near the home of one of her grandchildren, also located on Lost Mountain in west Cobb. Culley said she drove herself to her last hair appointment.
“She’s a great driver,” said Erin McCloud, Culley’s 21-year-old great-granddaughter.
Despite the notion that senior citizens are not technologically savvy, Culley said she uses a special computer, which uses her television screen as the main screen, to send and receive emails from friends and family, always signing her emails with ‘IGWT,’ which stands for “In God We Trust,” McCloud said. Culley said she primarily uses email to receive pictures.
A card shark from way back
Culley is also a fiercely competitive card player, according to her friend Nora.
“My daddy taught me to play poker when I was about 8 or 10 years old and that was the first game I ever learned to play,” Culley said.
Now, Culley still plays poker with her friends at the West Cobb Senior Center several times a week.
“She’s really the best,” Nora said. “I think she’s fantastic.”
Culley attributes her longevity to eating healthy, balanced meals throughout her life that incorporated one meat, one vegetable or fruit, and one starch. She also said she tried to avoid drinking too much alcohol, and she believes that has contributed to her long life.
“For some crazy reason, I don’t like alcohol,” Culley said. “My father liked his beer and I can’t stand beer, but I do like those frozen margaritas; I’ll take that any day.”
Culley advised younger generations to be genuine and kind to people.
“You don’t have to carry it overboard, but be a good Christian and be kind to others, like my friends and my family,” Culley said.
Culley and her family celebrated her 100th birthday Friday with a barbecue at one of her grandchildren’s homes.