“Lord, I don’t know,” Alice Lanning said when asked how many red, white and gold buttons she used to make her ornaments. “You’ll just have to look and guess for yourself.”
Lanning, who has lived in downtown Canton since 1982, will celebrate her 102nd birthday March 14.
Born in the Marble Hill community of Pickens County, Lanning has spent the holiday season decorating six 1-foot-tall pine trees and a larger centerpiece tree for her kitchen table.
“I had a little tree and it just came to me one time to try buttons,” Lanning said.
Lanning said throughout the year, people started giving her more trees after she decorated one with clusters of buttons and miniature dove ornaments, with each topped with a red bow.
“That’s how I’ve always seen them,” Lanning said of her choice of the traditional tree topper.
She also takes pride in her crochet work, including a crocheted candle and several doilies that decorate her couch and chairs.
A homemaker until her children were adults, Lanning working at a sewing plant and several years for Gold Kist.
“I always liked to crochet,” she said. “But now my fingers are too stiff and it’s hard to tie the knots.”
Lanning’s husband of 46 years, the late Vernie M. Lanning, and her three children have all passed away. Vernie Lanning worked at the old Canton Cotton Mill for many years and later drove for a local dry cleaner and trained hunting dogs, she said.
However, her granddaughter Janice Lanning tends to her grandmother and plans to have lunch with her on Christmas Day. Janice Lanning is one of eight grandchildren, with 15 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren in the family.
“She’s very independent,” Janice Lanning said. “She’ll hardly let you do anything for her because she wants to do it herself.”
Janice Lanning said her grandmother, who is hard of hearing and gets around with a walker, typically stays indoors but likes to go out in her yard in the summer. She also enjoys watching Atlanta Braves baseball games on television.
Alice Lanning said she does not have any plans to give the tiny trees as gifts this year, but said she might consider making one for someone else—for a price.
“They would have to furnish the buttons and ribbons,” she said. “And I wouldn’t know what to charge!”
She does plan to make another tree before Christmas for herself.
“I’ve got enough buttons to make one more,” she said.
Barbara Ball, Alice Lanning’s late husband’s cousin, said she likes to visit Alice as well.
“I like to visit and come cook for her sometimes,” she said.
Ball said she hopes her cousin by marriage might help her make her first miniature tree.
“I just think they’re beautiful,” she said.