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story.lead_photo.caption Five generations of Edna Runyon’s family pose with her during the Jan. 25 birthday gathering in Magnolia. Pictured (standing, L-R) are Sandra McKeller Smith (granddaughter), Alice McKeller (daughter), Greg McKeller (grandson), Regina Turner (granddaughter), Reggie McDonald (great-grandson), and “Little” Reggie McDonald (great-great-grandson).

With well over a century of life now under belt, Columbia County resident and supercentenarian Edna Runyon on Friday, along with numerous friends and family, celebrated her 111th birthday at her Magnolia home. The Willisville native was born Jan. 25, 1908, to Alfred and Alice McKinney of Nevada County.

The birthday was such a landmark, the event was attended and filmed by KATV-7 of Little Rock.

Runyon, known colloquially as “Big Mama,” is the oldest living resident in Columbia County, according to family members. She is also thought to be the oldest living Arkansan.

“We’re pretty sure she’s the oldest in the state,” said one family member. “But those things are sometimes hard to verify.”

Runyon’s daughter, Alice McKeller, helped lead the birthday celebration on Friday. The 82-year-old is one of eight total children and four still living.

Alice McKeller (right), 82, talks with her mother, Edna Runyon, during her 111th birthday celebration on Jan. 25, 2019, in Magnolia.
Alice McKeller (right), 82, talks with her mother, Edna Runyon, during her 111th birthday celebration on Jan. 25, 2019, in Magnolia.

“She raised us all by herself,” she said.

McKeller also spoke to her mother’s age, and said it was all about her faith in the Lord that kept her vibrant.

“She always says it was God that kept her here this long,” she added.

McKeller’s daughter, Sandra McKeller Smith, said Runyon was a hard worker and stayed employed well into her 90s, “Not because she had to, but because she wanted to.”

The granddaughter also attributes her grandmother’s longevity to good genetics, and again reiterated her strong faith as an aid.

“This is blessing by God for her to still be alive and still be somewhat alert,” she said. “We are here honoring her and honoring God and thanking God for giving her this long life. It just means the world.”

Among the gifts presented to Runyon at her party were cans of Coca-Cola — said to be her “favorite” — as well as a special glass-encased rose from McKeller Smith and her husband, Dwayne Smith, both of whom traveled from southern California to attend the Jan. 25 celebration.

“To the most prized, beautiful rose I’ve ever seen,” said Smith as he presented the gift. “You are a blessing.”

The 111-year-old does not reside at an assisted living care or nursing facility. Instead, she calls a corner bedroom at a quaint Magnolia apartment complex home.

Runyon, depending on the source, could be one of only approximately 100 people in the world alive today over the age of 111.

“I think its destiny,” said McKeller Smith. “Longevity is in our family.”

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