Opal Leedy celebrates 109th birthday


By Dave Ongie

Opal Leedy visits with her little brother Glay Hood during her birthday party last Thursday.

Opal Leedy’s face lit up as her little brother Glay Hood sat down next to her and wished her a happy birthday.

“You’re looking great,” Hood said as his big sister reached out and gave his arm a squeeze.

Hood was looking pretty good himself for a man who has been on this earth just over 101 years, but it was his 109-year-old sister Opal who drew a sizable crowd to The Waters of Johnson City last Thursday afternoon. Bathed in the bright light cast upon them by a pair of television cameras, the two siblings chatted quietly as Leedy opened her gift.

Behind them on a table sat the key to Johnson City, which had been presented to Leedy by vice-mayor Joe Wise. Moments before that presentation, Johnson City mayor Jenny Brock had read a proclamation declaring Dec. 27, 2018, Opal Leedy Day in the city of Johnson City.

Johnson City mayor Jenny Brock, left, shares a smile with Opal Leedy as she proclaims Dec. 27, 2018, to be Opal Leedy Day in Johnson City. PHOTOS BY DAVE ONGIE

As Johnson City prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary, Brock marveled at all the history Leedy has seen in her lifetime. When Leedy was born in 1909, East Tennessee State University was in its planning stages but had yet to be built. The Ashe Street Courthouse was under construction, costing a princely sum of $100,000 to complete.

In the years since 1909, Leedy has built a life that Brock described as having “both length and depth.” The sight of Leedy surrounded by friends and family last Thursday supported that statement.

Johnson City vice-mayor Joe Wise presents a ceremonial key to the city to Opal Leedy during her 109th birthday party.

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