Two locals celebrate memorable birthdays

November 26, 2014 chris
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 By Sarrah Peters

News Editor

Two Etowah County residents celebrated birthdays last week, but they weren’t your average birthdays. 

Helen Ligon turned 100 on Monday, Nov. 24, and J.T Wallace turned 102 the same week.

While growing up, Ligon walked to and from the one-room school in “rain, snow or shine.” The building did not even have a lunchroom. 

Ligon reminisced about her childhood during the interview.

“You didn’t have a lot of places to go,” she explained. “Mama played piano, and we would all sing. We all stayed together. Sometimes we would go to the forest and gather chestnuts.”

Ligon grew up in Knoxville, Tenn. She has lived through many periods of American history, including the Great Depression. 

“We were lucky,” said Ligon. “My Dad had a job with the railroad. Many others weren’t so lucky. You would see lines of people waiting for food.”

Ligon also had a brother who fought in World War II, who lived until the age of 91.

Ligon even remembers the first streetcars.

In 1939, Ligon moved to Gadsden with her husband, who left baseball to work at Goodyear. The couple received $18 a week in pay and paid only $3 a week for rent.

Ligon was a teller for over 35 years at the Exchange Bank. She worked until she was 96. Before Exchange Bank, Ligon worked as a salesperson in a hat shop. 

“If my body would cooperate with my mind, I could do a lot more,” said Ligon, who is still fairly active, despite her age. “I wish I could still sew and cook. I made all the children’s clothes, and they always looked as good as store-bought clothes.

Ligon has had four children, eight grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. She enjoys visiting with her family for holidays and living at Cherry Creek Retirement Village.

“I never dreamed I’d be here for this long,” said Ligon. “I’ve had a full life…”

J.T. Wallace grew up in Piedmont. He spent his early days farming and cutting timber, since his father was a farmer and a logger. Wallace was paid 50 cents a day. 

Wallace worked various jobs until he moved to Gadsden, where he was employed at Goodyear. He worked at Goodyear for 35 years.

Wallace was also active with his church, Bethel Baptist. For 50 years, Wallace served as a deacon. He was church treasurer for several years, as well. 

In the 2012 presidential election, Wallace went to vote at 100 years old. He voted every year since he turned 21. 

He was married to Julia Wallace for 72 years. She passed away in 2004.

The couple had three children, Reverend James Wallace, Carolyn Owens and Dean Elsberry, who has also passed away. Wallace has five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

For his father’s 102nd birthday, Reverend James Wallace asked his church to make birthday cards. He hoped that they could make 102 cards. One church member, Michael Hollingsworth, asked his Douglas Middle eighth grade class to help. J.T. Wallace received over 150 birthday cards.