A Century of Love

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Lois RichardsonHILTON HEAD ICON TURNS 100

Lois Richardson, a pillar of the Hilton Head Island community, hit an incredible milestone this summer. Richardson, wife of the late Norris Richardson, celebrated her centennial birthday, marking a century of giving her all to her community and her family. 

Richardson was one of the early residents of Hilton Head, arriving before the first bridge to the mainland was built. She and others like her were known as “island pioneers.”

“To us, it was living our dream. I would give that advice to others. Go do something you dream about and live your dream,” she said.

Accompanying her husband, Norris, and with three children in tow, the family set up a home. Mary Katherine had just finished junior high school, JR was 11, and their youngest, Collins, was only 4. 

The Richardson family took an active role in the island’s growth. Norris, whose background was in the grocery business, insisted the island could become something. Along with Lois, he founded many businesses that became community anchors — and eventually part of Coligny Circle’s shopping district: a grocery store, a laundromat, a barber shop and beauty parlor, and a pharmacy. 

GO DO SOMETHING YOU DREAM ABOUT AND LIVE YOUR DREAM.

- LOIS RICHARDSON

A decade after arriving, the Richardsons discovered that son Collins had a rare kidney disease. In a bold move, Lois donated her own kidney to Collins in one of the area’s earliest living donor transplants. He survived three more years, though Lois said that if she could change one thing about her life, “I would have invented a cure for [Collins’s] disease.” 

Lois was also a pioneer in working outside the home; she earned her business degree before marrying and often ran the grocery store when Norris took side jobs. As a bookkeeper for Charles E. Fraser and his real estate development firm, she helped contribute to the growth of Sea Pines. 

Norris and Lois also founded First Baptist Church in their home, with Sunday School upstairs. Posting flyers in the grocery store, Lois made sure the whole town was welcome, and she has hosted a Bible study group in her home for six decades, creating lifelong friendships.

“We call it the Tuesday Morning Bible Study Group. Those ladies mean so much to me,” she said.

Playing a vital role in the island’s growth has contributed to her longevity, Lois said, alongside her faith and commitment to family and friends: “Put your faith in God and surround yourself with people you love and who love you,” she said. “Do not take chances with your body. Eat healthy and exercise. Treat every day as if it is the most important day of your life.” 

So much has changed in the world and in the Lowcountry during Lois’ lifetime. She marvels at technological developments that have made daily living easier. “The microwave oven is amazing to me. The fact that ice turns to water in seconds is incredible,” she said.

At the end of the day, Lois said, it isn’t so much about the number of years she lives as it is the quality of that life — time spent with friends and family and doing things she loves.

“The focus of my life is on my faith and my family. I believe putting Christ first always is what has given me my strength,” she said. “I moved in with my son, Jimmy, and his wife, Leslie, and their family almost 25 years ago. There is so much activity and happiness in this home. I think it is important to be around people you love, and the people who love me, and to be involved in their lives.” 

KEYS TO LIVING LONGER?

What are the secrets to long life? Is it the luck of good genetics? 

The answers are complex. “There’s no genetic code we know of for why some people live longer, although longevity runs in families,” said genetic biologist Lisa Danish of Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. “Some possible genes have been seen, but little is known.”

There are, however, a list of behaviors that scientists link to longer lives: not smoking, engaging in daily physical and mental activity, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and body shape, and keeping up with dental health, including flossing.

Harvard scientists also have less obvious suggestions: maintain lifelong learning, have a strong community and social network, and prioritize your own happiness.