106-year-old says being active is the key to living - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

106-year-old says being active is the key to living

Brunette Nelms can still play the piano at 106-years-old. (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) Brunette Nelms can still play the piano at 106-years-old. (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Brunette Nelms celebrated her 106th birthday (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) Brunette Nelms celebrated her 106th birthday (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

She has lived through 18 United States presidents, two World Wars, Vietnam, and the Great Depression.

In addition, she has been alive for the invention of things such as the television, the first robot, the first traffic signal, and even stainless steel and the pop-up toaster.

106-year-old Memphis resident Brunette Nelms said the key to living happy and healthy is being active.

"Being active and staying active. My major was physical education, so I have always just been active," Nelms said. 

Nelms celebrated her birthday Wednesday with staff and residents at Town Village. The staff provided cake and punch for everyone.

Those in attendance to celebrate the joyous event sang "Happy Birthday" to the lady who always has a smile on her face and seems to have seen it all in her life.

Nelms is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has two daughters, five grandchildren and one great grandchild. She was born and raised in Ashland, Mississippi when there was only one telephone in the entire town. 

Even at 106, Nelms continues to play piano, participates in Tai Chi, yoga, weight training, and a balanced lives class at Town Village. She also attends Bible study classes. She even went bicycle riding with other Town Village residents recently.

Nelms said she struggled with her eyesight because of Macular Degeneration most of her life, but she didn't let that stop her. She memorized piano music and used that to teach her students in school.

"I couldn't see well enough to see the music, so I memorized them," Nelms said. "Most of what I play are marches."

Mobile Users: Click here to see a slideshow glimpsing back at Nelms' past 106 years

She said she used the marches she learned and combined them with exercise to teach her students. Now, she plays those same marches each day so she will never forget them. 

Nelms said she gained the name "Brunette" because she had a twin sister. 

"She was called 'Blondie,' and I was always 'Brunette,'" Nelms said. 

Nelms said her sister was told by an employer if they were going to continue to go by those names, they were going to have to change their names legally. So, that's what the twins did. They legally changed their names to "Blondie" and "Brunette."

"That's what's on my birth certificate, and that's what's on my tombstone," Nelms said.

Nelms was one of six children, but now she is the only surviving sibling.

She was married to her husband for 62 years before he died in 1999. She attends church at Cherry Road Baptist Church.

A bookmark given out by her church reflects five principles Nelms said are important for living a strong, healthy life. 

"Live well, learn a lot, laugh often, love much, and let your light shine," Nelms said.

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