Louise Howington surprises you the first time you meet her. At 92 years old, you might expect a frail, soft-spoken wisp of a woman.
Then she speaks.
With a strong voice, a healthy sense of humor and a keen memory, Howington is a delightful Southern lady with a lot to share about how to live life.
A charter member of the Snellville Keenagers, Howington bowls with the seniors group once a week, hitting the lane on Monday mornings. She also assigns members to teams, keeps up with the group's schedule and even checks the accuracy of team scores, just to be sure there are no mistakes.
"I'm busy, constantly doing something," Howington said. "I don't stop until I sit down to read the paper every night."
She's not kidding. In fact, until last April when a bout with pneumonia weakened her, Howington drove herself to Moreland Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta every Sunday. She also taught a Sunday school class and at one time served as Sunday school director.
"I don't drive as much anymore. I hoped I'd always know when to curtail my activities. I don't worry so much about my driving as I do about other peoples'," she said.
After the April illness, Howington decided it was time to choose a church closer to home and settled in at Loganville Baptist, but not before she checked it out to make sure it was a good fit.
"I met with the preacher and told him that I wear pants to church, and I wear a hat every Sunday. I never wore pants to church in my life until I hurt my leg. I have to prop it up, and I didn't think it was ladylike to do that in a dress," Howington said, laughing.
She doesn't mind wearing the pants, having had time to get used to the idea. It's the shoes she misses.
"I used to wear some of the most beautiful shoes. That's a fetish I always had," she said. "Now I have to wear flat shoes. I miss my high heels. That's one of the things about getting old."
When asked about her bowling skills, Howington laughs again.
"I used to be a good bowler, but not anymore," she said. "I use oxygen now, so I get up, take my tube out, bowl, then sit down and put it back in. I just haven't gotten my strength back since the pneumonia."
She still cooks, making one dish a day and freezing it to build a surplus. "I always have something for people to eat when they come over. My mother was like that," Howington said.
Her son, recently retired, loves his mom's homemade fruitcake. He refuses to eat store-bought fruitcake, so last Christmas she sent him out to buy the supplies and talked him through as he made one.
Howington grew up in Grant Park and retired from First National Bank of Atlanta after 43 years of service. She lost her husband Lester 13 years ago this month. Lester Jr. is their only child, and Howington also has two grandchildren.
"My husband couldn't wait to move out here (to Loganville) when he retired. He loved to garden, and he loved to fish," she said. "I hated fishing. I used to fight the 5 o'clock traffic to get home, then go out and relax on the dock. It was so peaceful.
"He'd come out and ask: 'Why don't you have a fishing pole?' and I'd say: 'Because something might catch it.'
"I tried a couple of times to help him to garden. One time, I got a hoe and went outside with it. I asked him: 'Why do you let these briars run all over the place?' just chopping away. He said for me to put that hoe down, get in the car and go somewhere, that I was chopping up his running butterbean."
"Another time when I decided to help him in the garden, I dug up a lot of rose bushes he had just planted. I never knew one flower from another, except roses. I do know them now."
Howington remembers her husband as a kidder, and a very kind person. "He had to be to put up with me," she said.
Howington still does her own taxes, though she has them checked by her accountant before filing. She had a computer her family gave her a few years back, but she gave it away after losing a list of 300 names she was organizing.
Another problem with the computer was the way she struck the keys. She reverted back to her days typing on a Burroughs typewriter, when banging on the keyboard was just part of the process.
"You had to hit those keys really hard, and I just always did that," she said. "That doesn't work so well on a computer."
She enjoys telling that story and enjoys entertaining guests. At 92, she's still going strong and is appreciative that she is. "It's been a great life," she said.