Englewood man looks at 102nd Thanksgiving

ENGLEWOOD — Englewood resident Cecil Wilks is turning 102 on Thanksgiving Day — a milestone very few achieve in their lives.

His family threw him a party Saturday.Wilks hails from Fremont, Mich. He moved to Florida in 1963 and decided to stay.

Al Stenstrom, a friend ofWilks and Englewood resident since 1955, recalls working for him.

“I worked with my fatherin-law for an electrical firm and he sold it to CecilWilks,” Stenstrom said. “I worked for Wilks for a short time there and then I went to work for Englewood Electric. He and I have been working as electricians for a number of years.”

Wilks was originally selling appliances in Michigan, but he found another calling.

“Sales were going pretty well, but I wanted to be an electrician,”Wilks said. “That’s what I trained to be. So we did wire some houses up there, but the buildings up there aren’t like the buildings down here.”

Wilks picked up where he left off when he moved to Florida.    “We built Rotonda,”Wilks said. “(We) did all the wiring down there in the houses.”

Wilks had to give up being an electrician after a long career when he turned 96 as his vision and hearing deteriorated. It did not stop him from being productive. He had tended to a farm for 10 years that the family owned off Venice Avenue. Now he grows vegetables and goes fishing with his family.

“Well there isn’t anything that he couldn’t do,” said Penny Ramsey, his daughter. “When I was much younger, we had a farm off ofVenice Avenue and we had cows, chickens and pigs. He would butcher them and we had a huge garden. So he pretty much knew how to do everything — he knew how to drive a well, how to hook up pumps and water irrigations. You name it, he could do it.”

Wilks still grows a variety of crops.

“The only thing he doesn’t grow is corn,” Ramsey said. “He’s grown watermelons, cantaloupe, green beans, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, peppers. So pretty much anything you can think of.”

Ramsey said Wilks also tends to a grapefruit tree that’s always full of fruit and he is always vigilant to plant new seeds from his current crops.

“If we get avocados or mangos, we take the seed and give it to him,” Ramsey said. “He’ll plant it in a pot and start it.We have a bunch of those all over the property.”

Wilks is expecting a crop to harvest around the holidays.

“Well, there’s not much in it right now, but there’s going to be onions in it shortly,” Wilks said. “We get a variety of onions with green, yellow, white and red ones. There’s carrots, lettuce — all the common stuff.”

Wilks does not fish as long as he used to.    “He wears out a little too quickly,” Ramsey said. “We bring a chair and he usually sits. It’s usually a couple of hours, if he lasts that long.”

Wilks recalled how he and his first wife used to fish at Stump Pass.

“We were there in May when the snook came running down there and we’d catch our limit,”Wilks said. “Not anymore.We hooked too many of them then. They don’t even open for the season part of the time now.”

What is his secret for long life? Two tablespoons of Braggs Vinegar, two tablespoons of raw honey and a cup of hot water every morning, he said.

“I took him to the doctor,” Ramsey said. “This man is not on any medication of any kind. He’s in absolute perfect health and the doctor told me, ‘Whatever he’s doing, let him keep doing it.’”

Cecil Wilks

PHOTO PROVIDED BY PENNY RAMSEY
Longtime Englewood resident Cecil Wilks turns 102 today, Thanksgiving Day. His family threw him a party Nov. 17.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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