‘Going pretty good’ at 101, Elwyn still excited about hand-crafted art

  • Elwyn Flury, 101, shows off her handiwork on a wooden-carved angel she said is one of her “favorite pieces,” made for a nativity scene her family continues to enjoy every year. - Photos courtesy of Eric Manneschmidt

  • A trio of swans she carved, along with an oil painting and a basket she wove containing dish-cloths she knitted. - Photos courtesy of Eric Manneschmidt

  • A nativity scene she created that she duplicated and gave away to teachers and doctors down through the years. - Photos courtesy of Eric Manneschmidt

Elwyn Flury celebrated her 101st birthday Dec. 1, and even at her age is still excited about continuing her life-long passion for hand-crafted art.

With an extensive background in clay-making, ceramics, wood carving, quilting and other soft-material crafting, she now commits to knitting nearly every day.

“I feel pretty good,” she said over a visual Internet call. “I never thought I would live to be 100, then all of a sudden I’m 101 and now on my way to being 102. Life is going pretty good. As long as I’m able to enjoy it, I’ll just keep on.

“It’s bad to get old, but worse not to,” she added with a chuckle.

After living all her life in Middle Tennessee, Elwyn moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, Margaret and Eric Manneschmidt in Farragut, in 2012 following a serious car accident.

“She was 92 at the time, and had driven off the mountain,” Margaret said. “She walked out of the accident, climbed back up the hill to the road and someone helped her get home.”

Not realizing at first she had sustained serious injuries, Elwyn finally saw a doctor a week later, who discovered she had suffered several broken ribs and fractures in her pelvis and back. By then, she also was diagnosed with pneumonia — but a follow-up hospital stay and rehab put her on the road to recovery.

It also led to her daughter’s realization her mom needed to relocate.

The family, which includes six children (only two of whom currently live at home), decided to purchase a new home, with a main-floor bedroom for Elwyn, and she has been with the Manneschmidts ever since.

“We loved the generational thing,” Margaret said. “For many years, because of distance, Mom had not been able to spend a lot of time with our children, so it was wonderful, and such a blessing that she was able to come to be with us when she did.”

Elwyn came into the world Dec. 1, 1919, and was one of eight children born to a Methodist minister and his wife.

“The family moved a lot,” said Margaret, who noted Elwyn’s unusual name was one her mother had once heard and liked.

Elwyn worked in a shoe factory prior to World War II — as did one of her brothers, who was later called up to serve then attended college, noting only “six or seven men were in the whole college at the time” because of the war.

She obtained a two-year degree from Martin College in Pulaski and took classes at the University of Tennessee and and Middle Tennessee State University to finish her bachelor’s degree in education, and taught elementary school after marrying her husband, Sammy Flury, in 1956.

The couple had two children, Margaret and Louis, the latter born with Down syndrome.

“Mom didn’t work after my brother was born,” Margaret said. “She stayed home to take care of him.”

After more than 20 years of marriage, Sammy became ill with colon cancer and died not long after his diagnosis.

“After my husband died, I took care of my family,” Elwyn recalled, noting her mother and a brother, Robert Flury, came to live with her.

“I will remember mostly her caring, quiet spirit in how she took care of my brother for so many years, my Dad when he was sick and her mother when she had lost her short-term memory,” Margaret said.

Elwyn always had been considered “crafty,” but she really began her hobbies in earnest during these years.

“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” Elwyn said.

At one time, she made free-form nativity sets of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, and presented them to teachers and doctors she knew.

“Back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s though, she was into clay/ceramics heavily,” her daughter said. “She was making her own molds, as well as buying them, running her own kiln and making dolls.”

Eric and Margaret shared several photos of Elwyn’s prolific work, including pieces “made of clay she dug herself on Monteagle Mountain,” Margaret. said

“Beyond all the artsy stuff — she just oozes creativity, a quality which definitely shows itself in my own children,” her daughter added.

Elwyn said if there is any “secret” to longevity, she would recommend “eating a lot of beans. Mama fed us lots of beans nearly every day when we were growing up.”

She also suggested, “Have a hobby and don’t smoke or take too many medicines,” noting she only takes vitamins along with medication for blood pressure and diabetes.

“Just don’t smoke and you will have a healthy and happier life.”