Since Memorial Day, longtime Destin resident Dessie Davis has had to keep her feet up off of the floor — something she detests.
The 97-year-old was exiting an RV when she missed her step and fell. Her friend and the RV owner called soon after the accident asking how long it will be before she could do the twist again. She was always fond of dancing.
"I told him just hurry on back and I'll be twisting again," she said with a laugh. "I could do the twist faster than anybody."
Such is the attitude of Mrs. Davis.
"I have a walker, but I'm not going to let that keep me down. It's not gonna happen," she said. "Act and be the best you can be."
Davis, a transplant from Montgomery, Ala., moved to Destin with her second husband after they honeymooned here in the early 1970s. The couple was supposed to go to Hawaii, but because of her husband's health, they decided to keep their post-nuptial vacation closer to home.
"We stayed at what was known as the Hawaiki," she said, recalling the Destin icon, which was recently razed when the Holiday Inn tower was demolished. "Every day we had our lunch in the revolving restaurant."
It was the early 1970s, and the newlyweds were sold on the beauty of Destin. It was in that restaurant that they spotted Shoreline Towers and promptly bought a condo there to start their life in Florida. While she has moved from the original condo, Davis has lived at Shoreline Towers since that honeymoon. She served on the Condo Association Board for 22 years and is an honorary member of the Snowbirds club.
"They asked me to join them as an Alabama snowbird," Davis said. "I love that title."
She has a few other titles and nicknames from family and friends. Her great grandson calls her Darlin' and the entire security staff at Shoreline Towers call her Mom.
Davis, originally Pickard, was born in Luverne, Ala. During World War II, she joined the American Red Cross.
"My first husband was in Okinawa fighting and I was one of those part-time widows," she said. "I felt the Red Cross would really serve our service people and I wanted to be a part of that."
Davis never did make it overseas, but through the years she kept correspondence with her fellow Red Cross friends that she trained with in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
After the war, she was an activities director for the USO. She planned parties and even did the entertaining herself on bases such as Eglin.
"I really was a great singer and dance — oh Lord, I could dance," she said.
After the Red Cross and USO, Davis returned to Montgomery and opened Romeo & Juliet Kindergarten School — named after her first husband Julian Romeo.
"I love children," she said. "I know how important it is to give them special love."
The school ran for 30 years. Even after she moved to Florida, Davis keeps close to her Alabama roots, visiting her family every Thanksgiving and the school, where she is regularly recognized by former students.
Davis likes to keep busy, and enjoys spending time with her grown grandchildren and great grandchildren, some of whom live close by. Sitting in a chair with an ocean view behind her, Davis is surrounded by flowers from family and friends.
"They say they love me," she said.
When it comes to people in all walks of life, Davis reciprocates that love.
"People to me are treasures, whether they're good, bad or indifferent," she said.
On Sundays, you might find her at Destin United Methodist Church getting lost in the music.
"Barry Carpenter is such a good minister; he can't be beat," she said. "And I get so carried away by the choir."
Davis rarely stays put in her condo, and still drives herself around, which is why her recent injury has made her a little stir-crazy.
"I've grown so accustomed to being up and at 'em," she said. "Usually I'm never home."
It's important to note that Davis neither acts nor looks 97. She often fools a lot of strangers when she reveals her age, which she isn't the least bit ashamed of.
"I was shopping at Walmart and I told the cashier to bag items separately because I'm too old to carry heavy bags," she said. "When they tell me I don't look very old, I tell them my age and they just say 'You can't be.'"
"I still don't think I'm old. I don't feel 97, but I look 197" she joked. "I've said it always that if you really trust and believe in the Lord, lead a good life and stay happy, it makes you want to keep living."