NPR: Remembering Ms. Willie Knight

MICHELE NORRIS, Host: We do a lot of obituaries on this program, and they're usually about people who have at least a few mentions in the media. But this next remembrance, which was sent to us today, is about someone who was neither rich nor famous, but she still offers important lessons, says essayists Melody Moezzi.

MELODY MOEZZI: Yesterday morning, this country lost one of its finest. Ms. Willie Knight died at the age of 107. She was my friend. In our nearly three years of visits together, I saw lots of people come to see her. They always asked the same question, what's your secret? She told me on many occasion that her long life was undoubtedly the result of one of two things. Either I did something good to please the Lord or he's still got something for me to do. I met Ms. Knight on her 105th birthday and began visiting her nearly every week.

While many asked her how she managed to live so long, few asked how she managed to live so well. And by well, I'm not talking about wealth or ease. As an African-American woman born in Claiborne, Alabama in 1900, the odds were against her. Still, she managed to live a life that would have made even the humblest of souls proud. She adored and was adored by her family, particularly her three sisters and her beloved nephew and closest living relative, Mr. Frank Marzo(ph). At around five feet tall and 100 pounds, she made up for anything she lacked in physical prowess one-hundredfold in beauty, style, grace and smart.

From her choice of attire to her choice of company, she had impeccable taste. She was forever sending out greeting cards. Even the smallest act of kindness warranted a handwritten note. Ms. Knight often said and truly believed that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. More than anything else, Ms. Knight was an educator. She began teaching elementary school in Alabama at 15 years old. She ultimately earned a masters degree in education from Columbia University, only to return to Alabama to continue teaching.

She often warned me, don't leave for tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination and indolence were simply not her style. She read two things religiously, the daily paper and the Bible. And she found more insight in both than anyone I've known. I can't imagine how many children must have passed through Ms. Knight's classroom. I will be forever thankful for every second I spent with Ms. Knight, who would have been 108 in February. There was never a flower nor a bowl of ice cream eaten for which Ms. Knight did not express and experience the sincerest gratitude, joy and pleasure.

If only to have the privilege of another minute in her company, it is worth my every effort on Earth to assure that like her, I, too, find my way to paradise.

NORRIS: Melody Moezzi is a writer, activist, attorney and author.