At 101, Jean Boggs advises ‘pray more, worry less’

MOUNT PLEASANT—A sign on the wall of her room at Sweetgrass Village sums up Jean Boggs’ attitude toward life: “Pray more, worry less!”

That perspective — joy mixed with a strong, unwavering faith in God — has helped her thrive for 101 years.

Mrs. Boggs celebrated her 101st birthday on July 9 surrounded by family and friends. For her party, she was decked out in a festive hat topped with pink feathers. Her big gift was a new acoustic guitar. She is a music lover who sang and played guitar in an upstate band called Dave and the Nitros back in the mid ‘90s, and she wants to take lessons to improve her skills on the instrument.

Living, loving and learning new things at 101 — that is Jean Boggs.

Joy radiates from her from the moment she is introduced to someone, and within an hour the newcomer feels like a friend.

That openness to life’s new experiences and new friends has helped her approach all the twists and turns of a long life with a positive outlook.

Mrs. Boggs was born in Florence but moved to Greenville when she was a small child. The city would be her home for the next 90-plus years.

She was the oldest of six children of the late Clarence and Catherine Fraser. Her father hailed from Walterboro and her mother was a Charleston native, but Mr. Fraser’s work with an oil company prompted the young family to move to the Upstate.

Photo provided: Jean Boggs receives the Catholic Woman of the Year award at St. Mary Church in Greenville in 1962 from the late Msgr. Charles Baum.

The Catholic faith was central to the Frasers’ life, and they quickly found a spiritual home at St. Mary Church in downtown Greenville. Mrs. Boggs attended St. Mary School for several years and was active in the parish from a young age. In her teens, she helped form a group for young women at the church.

The 1940s brought both love and sadness. She met Albert Folger from the nearby town of Pickens, and the two quickly fell in love, married and started a family. Their happiness was short-lived. World War II was raging in Europe, and Albert was sent overseas with the Army.

He was killed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944.

Mrs. Boggs carried on despite her grief over losing Albert, and in 1950 she married her second husband, Lewis Boggs, who worked as a wholesale lumber salesman in Greenville. They had been married for 56 years when he passed away in 2006.

Both her marriages brought her happiness and gave Mrs. Boggs what she says are “my jewels — my six children.” She also has eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Raising her family was Mrs. Boggs’ main occupation, but her life was also filled with many other activities. She taught Sunday school for many years at St. Mary and was a vital member of St. Mary’s Council of Catholic Women. An avid gardener, she taught classes on trees and other subjects in Upstate schools as part of the South Carolina Garden Club.

And then there was Dave and the Nitros. In 1994, she joined the group, based out of a senior center in Greenville. The members, all over 55, played guitar and sang a wide variety of popular tunes.

The Upstate was her home until she uprooted to move to Mount Pleasant in 2017, where she lives near her oldest daughter, Taylor Smith. For some people, leaving a long-time home would bring sadness or fear. Instead, she has embraced her new city.

“I loved Greenville so much, but I love Charleston too!” she said. “What is there not to love about Charleston? They are two entirely different places but both of them are good.”

At Sweetgrass Village, she made dozens of friends. She is nicknamed “The Turtle Lady” because of her love for them, and her room is filled with turtle figurines and decorations given by friends and family. She takes part in activities, attends Mass at Christ Our King Church when she can, and takes part in communion services at the Village.

A sharp dresser with a quick mind and memory, Mrs. Boggs says the secret to a long life is “coffee.” She drinks several cups a day.

Prayer and her strong faith have kept her going, she says, and she also encourages people to “Find what makes you happy, and pursue it!”

In the end, her age doesn’t mean much to Mrs. Boggs.

“Being 101 doesn’t feel any different at all,” she said. “I feel like I’m 16!”

Top photo, Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Jean Boggs (left) enjoys time with her daughter, Taylor Smith. Both women live in Mount Pleasant.