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Myrtie Exley celebrates 98 years
Myrtie sitting on Chancys car
Myrtie Exley sits on Chancys car in the mid-1930s. - photo by Photo provided

Myrtie Wilson (Exley) was the daughter of Perry C. and Fannie (Edwards) Wilson and was born July 23, 1915. The fifth of six children, Myrtie is the last sibling still living.

Her brothers and sisters were: Janie W. Sikes, Thelma W. Exley, Ruby W. Exley, P. Rudolph Wilson and Howard Wilson.  She was brought up Methodist at Turkey Branch near Springfield. Their family took part in Camp Meeting and Sunday School Convention.

Myrtie married Chancy Exley on Nov. 4, 1936, and they became members at his church, Laurel Hill Lutheran, where she played the organ. They later moved their membership to Holy Trinity Lutheran in Springfield.

She played "by ear" and note and was Sunday school pianist for many years. Active faithfully in the Lutheran Church Women, she served as an officer many times. Always a hard worker, she has served her church in many ways. Myrtie sang in the choir for decades, until her sight became too poor to read the music. 

Chancy was a good carpenter and he built them a house off Sisters Ferry Road. The wood-frame house was later moved to the Old Dixie Highway, in order to have access to electricity. This is where Myrtie lived for the majority of her life. Her sister Thelma and her husband Guy Exley built a home next door, and the two sisters were neighbors for many years and their children grew up together.

Always an excellent cook, Myrtie put the produce from the garden that Chancy planted to good use. She canned or froze vegetables, fruit and nuts they grew on their place.

Myrtie and Chancy have three children: Dallas (Joan) Exley, Alice E. (John) Sheley and Louise E. (Stan) Riner. Affectionately known as "Grand Myrtie," she enjoys her three grandchildren: Gwinea Burns, Kimberly Rahn and Chan Sheley. Tragically, she lost grandson Trey Sheley in childhood. Seven great-grandchildren and extended family bring her much joy and happiness.

Myrtie went to work as manager of the Star Department Store on Laurel Street in Springfield in 1955, about the time Chancy had his leg amputated from cancer. She retired after 27 years there and later worked several years for Bebe Exley in the Sew and Sew Fabric Shop. (Joann’s Florist occupies this space today.) Throughout her life, Myrtie sewed, preferring to make her own pattern and clothing for herself and her girls, and was an excellent seamstress. She takes great pride in her appearance, wearing neat, stylish clothing and always has beautiful hair.

A member of the Effingham Hospital Auxiliary, she volunteered in the gift shop for many years.  Chancy and Myrtie were members of the Farm Bureau and as members they helped with the Effingham County Fair. Myrtie also entered items she made for prizes.

Myrtie is one of two living charter members of the Effingham County Hussars Chapter No. 2285. She has served as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and third vice president.  This fellowship has been very special to her and she was named an Honorary Georgia Division president. 

Chancy died in 1980 from lung cancer. She lived in their home until she could no longer see to drive, moving to a nice home near family in Rincon. Dallas and his wife now live on his parents’ home place. 

When Myrtie became unable to reside alone, she lived with Louise and Stan for two years until she moved to Lakeview Manor in 2012 where she resides today. She enjoys getting out, going to church and family gatherings and watching the Atlanta Braves.

At a recent family reunion she was laughing and talking, very jolly and smiling as usual. Everyone in the family or that she meets loves her. She is remarkable for her age. Just shy of a century old and still a good historian, only she can answer our many questions about early life in Effingham County. Oh, the changes she has seen and the modern conveniences she came to enjoy saving so much work for the housewife.

Gwinea says "Grand Myrtie" entertains us with her own expressions or phrasing known by the family as "Myrtieisms." Remarking on this milestone, I am sure she would say, "My soul and body, I can’t believe I am going to be 98."  Happy birthday to my Great Aunt Myrtie!

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: