Carlos Ray Norris, more commonly known as Chuck Norris, became famous for his action films like Way of the Dragon and Missing in Action, and his own TV series Walker, Texas Ranger. The 82-year-old is well-known for his martial arts and acting achievements. He has also inspired a wave of memes and jokes all about how mystically hardcore and undefeatable he is. But while Chuck Norris is respected by millions, his hero is his mother, who turned 101 this past May.

Chuck Norris was the eldest in his family, with two younger brothers. He had described himself as non-athletic, shy, and mediocre at school as a child. His father, Ray Dee Norris, was an alcoholic who abandoned his sons after he and his wife divorced. His mother, Wilma Norris Knight, was born in 1921 in Oklahoma. She was faced with many challenges in her life, including raising three sons in dire financial straits. For her 100th birthday, he wrote a blog post on WND praising her and all of her accomplishments.

Wilma Norris Knight was raised in poverty. When she was eight years old, she was given away as a ward of the state. For two years, she lived in a children’s hospital, away from her family, to receive treatment for a rare disease. After she healed, she returned home in time for the Great Depression, where she and her family—including the children—had to pick cotton in order to survive. They’d go from one field to another town to continue picking in another field.

She married Ray Dee Norris when she was 16 years old. However, she was later left to raise their three sons on her own. “I was the eldest, and often had to assume the roles of my absent father,” wrote Chuck Norris. “We were as poor as church mice, but that’s what also prepared me to overcome the obstacles of this life.”

He described her as “an example of perseverance and faith her whole life.” She is the last living member of her biological family of 11. She’s also outlived two husbands, a stepson, two grandchildren, and a son. Norris’ younger brother, Wieland, perished in the Vietnam War. She has also survived multiple bouts of cancer and underwent about 30 surgeries for different issues. [1]

“We had our prayers all the time”
Chuck Norris, an outspoken Christian, wrote about how his mother has always prayed for him. “When I was born, I almost died from complications. When nearly losing my soul to Hollywood a few decades ago, she was back home praying for my success and salvation. She even prayed for me to find a woman to change my life, and it worked. I equally celebrate my wife, Gena, during this Mother’s Day week.”

In 2012, Wilma was interviewed on Fox to promote her book called Acts of Kindness: My Story. There, she explained she calls Chuck “her defender” because of how he became the man of the house in his father’s absence at age 14. When asked what she did to get through that difficult time, she said, “I kept them in church and Sunday school; I taught Sunday school. We had our prayers all the time… Spiritual life was very important to me, still is.”

When asked what advice she could give to mothers also raising their kids alone, she said, “give them lots of love” in addition to her faith’s practices. She added, “But see, G-d didn’t give us our children. He only loaned them to us for a while. And I will see mine, you know, soon.” She laughed, “I don’t know how soon.” To which the interviewer, Mike Huckabee, responded, “Well, at the rate you’re going it’s going to be a while, Wilma.”