Helen Wheat, originally of York City, celebrates her 111th birthday in a Frederick, Md., retirement home.
Helen Wheat, originally of York City, celebrates her 111th birthday in a Frederick, Md., retirement home. (Submitted photo)

Helen Wheat is 111 years old and she's still the boss, her son said.

"I went to visit her, and she was having a good day, telling people what to do," said Richard Naylor, 85, of York Township. "I think she's going to keep going for a while. She's just so healthy. She's been that way."

Helen Wheat was born in York Sept. 16, 1902.

Her family recently celebrated her birthday at her residence at Homewood at Crumland Farms retirement community in Frederick, Md.

Naylor, who owns Naylor Winery in Stewartstown, said his mother grew up in York City. She had to quit school at age 14 to help support her family. She worked at the former York Caramel Co., wrapping candy.

She also worked at the Salvation Army, packing items that would be distributed to people in need, Naylor said. His mother was a member of local Aldersgate United Methodist Church, he said.

She married Naylor's father, Harvey Naylor, in the early 1930s, and they moved to Severn, Md., where he worked on a farm while she did domestic work, Naylor said.

They divorced after several years of marriage. She eventually remarried William Wheat and they ran a farm together.

The couple had two children, the now Janey Andrews of Frederick, Md., and Frank Wheat of Boynton Beach, Fla.

"My mom and my new stepfather were very kind and generous people," Naylor said. "I can almost cry about what they did for people. They tried to help so many people out."

Naylor said he remembers how they gave farm produce to people in need. The Wheats also did foster parenting for

almost two dozen children.

"Then she started bringing home aged people who couldn't care for themselves," Naylor recalled about his mother. "It was like assisted living, but they didn't have those back in those days."

Helen Wheat also played piano and organ at Delmont UMC in Severn, said Andrews, 78, of Frederick, Md.

"We learned from her faith and her love of the Lord," Andrews said. "She instilled it in all three of us kids and we passed it on to our children."

Loves people: Andrews said her mother enjoyed cooking, crocheting, reading the Bible and participating in church and women's group activities. She also loved to comfort and encourage people and still does so today, Andrews added.

"She loves people," Andrews said. "She chats with the residents on her good days. She sat with people who were (dying) and held their hand. She's been a great role model for the family."

Naylor said his mother lived with him for about 53 years and worked at the winery -- picking grapes and working with bottles -- until she was 98 years old.

Helen Wheat moved to the Maryland facility about five years ago, Andrews said. In May, she was moved to a dementia unit, but can still feed herself and is active on her "good days," Andrews said.

"She goes through a spell where she sleeps a lot to recharge her engines," Andrews said.

Besides her children, Helen Wheat has "a bunch of grandchildren" and six great-great grandchildren, Naylor said.

"I'm just blessed with family members with so much talent and so much love, and that rubbed off from mom," he said. "She had that type of talent and personality that makes people do what was right."

--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.