We use Facebook to keep in touch with our friends and family. We use it to post photos from fabulous vacations or backyard get-togethers. Yet Fayetteville native Daniel Turner, utilizes the social media platform to post witty commentary on local and national going ons… and touching status updates about his 100-year-old grandmother.
Mary Stewart Gillis was born on March 13, 1915 to James Archie Johnson and his wife, Mary. She was the fifth of 12 children. She married the late J. McNatt Gillis (you know the name from Gillis Hill Farms) in the latter part of the 1930s. She bore three children, including Daniel’s mother, Jane. They all lived an idyllic farm life in the Seventy-First Township and attended Galatia Presbyterian… religiously.
Daniel was raised in the Stoney Point Road farmhouse, even learning how to cook sweet cornbread from his grandma. That very cornbread won him first place in a 4-H cooking contest in the late 1980s at the Crown.
Now, Daniel feels as if he has a second chance to get to know his grandmother again. Their relationship, strained by distance when he was in college at N.C. State to when he was a successful realtor in Wrightsville Beach, is now anew. “We exchanged the occasional letter, which always included a bit of advice from her. It was advice about life, finances, relationships, wearing sunscreen...and I still have all of those letters,” said Daniel.
Six years ago, when Daniel moved back to Fayetteville, he began staying with her several nights a week, taking turns with his mother and uncles. “I’m sure she’d be okay alone, but I know she enjoyed the company,” he affirmed. Their evenings together end with a bowl of ice cream for Daniel and a milkshake for Mary (two scoops of chocolate ice cream doused in milk with a sprinkle of cocoa powder). “We look at old photos (she loves remembering when), watch a western, college sports or the local news. This was all after she would ask about my day. She is always interested in my day. Even when she fell ill last year and was in the hospital, she called me from the hospital bed to check on me,” the doting grandson recalled.
Daniel knows that Mary teaches something to everyone she meets. “She's taught me to be a better person. She helped me to understand that what truly makes a man is not what he has, but what he does with it. Not what he says, but what his actions prove. She is a true Southern Belle, and a shining example of grace,” he said.
And now, her reach is even more broad thanks to the inspirational status updates Daniel posts about his grandmother, which have touched hundreds of his friends and even a few local elementary school classes who sent Mary handwritten cards for her centennial. “She replied to them all too,” Daniel said.
“Now she's 100 years old, and even though her hearing isn't what it once was, and her vision isn't strong, what she's taught me has amplified my senses.”
And that’s the optimal grandma status.