ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The Manning name is a big part of Alpharetta history.
Manning Oaks Elementary School is named after the family, and the Lewis-Manning home is listed as a national historic site.
Sim Manning was mayor back in 1948 and was editor of the local paper at the time, the North Fulton Press. But as the saying goes, behind every great man there is a great woman.
For the Manning family, that woman is Sarah Payne Manning, who celebrated turning 100 years old on Sunday, Oct. 7.
About 200 family and friends came to honor the centenarian at the five-bedroom Queen Anne-style Manning home, 40 Cumming Street in Alpharetta.
“I can’t believe so many people are coming,” she said.
Her daughter, Susan Niolon, 66, disagreed.
“We knew this would be a big event. It’s not every day someone as wonderful as my mother turns 100,” Niolon said.
Manning and her late husband Sim were married in 1932 and raised their three children at the Lewis-Manning home near downtown Alpharetta. As she reflected on her 100 years, she smiled.
“I’ve lived here for almost 60 years,” said Manning, who was born in Duluth. “Alpharetta is my home.”
She lived through and survived the Great Depression, and she supported her husband’s efforts to help grow Alpharetta into the city of today.
“My husband would love to see Alpharetta now,” she said. “He would be so proud. I remember when we first lived here. There was only one or two paved roads. The rest were dirt.”
Manning was a teacher at Alpharetta Elementary School, retiring in 1975.
“I have been retired now longer than I worked,” she said with a smile. “But I loved teaching. I loved the children.”
That love is obvious as she watches her great-grandchildren playing among the white-clothed tables and floating white balloons in her yard, decorated to celebrate her 100th birthday. Manning watched as the children played and peeked into The Varsity’s catering trailer.
“I knew this would be a great party when she said she wanted The Varsity to cater,” her daughter, Niolon said, as her mother nodded in agreement. “This party is to honor her, to celebrate a great woman who has lived a wonderful life.”
When asked what it felt like to be the matriarch of the Manning family, the centenarian grew humble.
“I wouldn’t call me that,” she said. “There are five generations of family now and I am the oldest, but I’m certainly not in charge.”
Her children, all in their late 60s and 70s, said their mother is a “strong woman.”
Though Manning has faced a few medical difficulties and now resides at an assisted living home in Cumming, she expects to return home soon.
“She is a great mother,” Niolon said. “She never interferes in our lives, and never gives her opinion unless she’s asked.”