by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — Click here to watch the video
As the waning days of winter arrived in 1911, Ann Chappell came into the world a little early.
“I was a preemie and I wasn’t supposed to live longer than the day I was born,” Chappell, now 102, said as five generations of her family joined with her church family and friends at Bluefield’s First Christian Church on Sunday to celebrate her lifetime of service to her church and the community. “When the doctor got to the house, he said I probably wouldn’t live more than a day, but here I am.
“My mother took me in her arms and held me close,” Chappell said as friends gathered in the fellowship hall of the church. “She held me close to keep me warm until I could make it on my own. The doctor said I wouldn’t make it, but I’m here.”
The Reverend Doug McDaniel conducted a special service recognizing Chappell for her long time service to the community. She worked outside of the home several years as a teacher at the West Virginia Business College in Bluefield, volunteered with the American Red Cross and volunteered 24 years at the Bluefield Regional Medical Center.
In the 1960s, her husband, Carlos “Rudy” Chappell, a locomotive engineer with the (then) Norfolk & Western Railway (now Norfolk Southern) volunteered to operate the Ridge Runner Railroad when it was located near the East River Mountain Overlook. The Chappell family hails from France, while Ann is a descendant of the Lilly family that holds a reunion annually on Flat Top Mountain.
“I was 30 and one-half years old when we were married, and we were together for 60 years,” Chappell said. “We were married on Sept. 11, (1941) and he died on July 1, in the same year as the other Sept. 11 (2001),” she said. “I was born before World War I.”
Chappell’s daughter, Carol Bradley said that her mother comes from a family that has others who live into the 100s, including a sister who lived to be 105 years old.
“Daddy said that this family will never die,” Bradley said. “He said that they would have to knock them on the head on judgment day.”
Ann Chappell attributed her long life to the fact that she never drank, never smoked and walked nearly everywhere she went. “Yes, I can still walk places now,” she added.
“I have a great faith in God,” she continued. “He’s never failed me. I love books. I read the Bible every day and I recite the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm every day. I’ve had a lot of miracles in my life.”