Miss Jean Christy was recently heralded by her minister for calling his office to volunteer to do more for the church. She felt like she wasn’t doing enough, and she was asking to be put to work.
While telling this story, he admonished the rest of the congregation gathered by saying, "I don't know what excuse the rest of you are using, but it can't be that you're too old to work!"
All this good-natured ribbing came on Miss Christy's 105th birthday. And with this milestone, Jean Christy officially becomes the most senior living graduate of Emory & Henry College.
She finished her studies at Emory & Henry in 1928, three years before the College became co-ed. The school officially became when the all-female Martha Washington College closed its doors and those students came to Emory & Henry to complete their studies.
In the 1920s a small handful of young women attended E&H, but since there was no housing for women, they had to live in the community. Jean's family owned a small printing business in Emory that was operated out of their home. The home still exists on Hillman Highway, very near the front gates to the college, and has had several names throughout the years. Many will know it as "Yellow House" or "The Manor."
Jean graduated from Emory & Henry and pursued a career in teaching that endeared her to the community of Andrews, N.C., where she lives today.
Many at her birthday party told stories of the profound inluence Jean had had on them growing up. Nieces and nephews told tales about her tough love and playful nature. Former students recalled pranks on the teacher as well as life lessons learned.
But the sentiment of the day was all the same: People in Andrews love, admire and respect Miss Jean Christy.
And over the years her affection for Emory & Henry has not wavered. One woman shared a story about how she announced mistakenly in church one day that Jean had attended a nearby North Carolina school. The woman laughed and added, "Miss Christy corrected me quicker than quick!”
In honor of this special occasion, her church is naming a Sunday School class for her; the Jean Christy Class will be filled with young couples.
Town dignitaries were on hand for the celebration, as was an enthusiastic local newspaper reporter who smiled broadly and said, "This is a big deal!"
And while cards, gifts and even a letter from NBC's Willard Scott punctuated the party, it was the smiles, hugs and expressions of appreciation that seemed to bring smiles to Jean's face.
Jean continues to live in her home in Andrews, is an active member of the Andrews community, and now has a phone ministry for Andrews United Methodist Church where she calls members on their birthday to wish them well.
She has spent her life actively contributing to her community. At 105, she has no intention of stopping.
What's our excuse?