Like just about everything else in 2020, the 30th Annual Birthday Party for the elite group in Monroe County celebrating 90 or more birthdays had to be done differently this year. But the dedicated family and friends of Rubye James Watts made the party happen on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Those marking their 90th birthday or more by Oct. 14 were invited to drive by Monroe County Senior Center and receive congratulations and a gift bag.

DJ Terry Lyons kept party tunes playing for the celebrants and about a dozen volunteers greeted those driving by the decorated front entrance of the center. 

Over 30 years ago Rubye James Watts was impressed with how many citizens Monroe County had in the top tier of seniors and how active and important to the community many of them were. Watts, who served in the Silver Haired Legislature as well as in other public capacities, organized a parade and party to celebrate these long term survivors. 

Watts’ three daughters, Lillian Hogan, Aretha Neal Thompson and Susan Gibson, and other members of her family and friends have made sure the recognition continued each year since then. The programs have included music, dancing, a luncheon, tributes to those in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, as well as 90’s, and lots of laughter and fellowship. 

Watts asked J.B. King to create certificates for each of the individuals 90 and over. He said that you didn’t say ’no’ to Ms. Rubye, and he has made certificates for the last 30 years and was at the drive by on Wednesday greeting the birthday celebrants. 

Aretha Neal Thompson compiled a list of 26 honorees this year, ages 90 to 102. The ladies dominated the list, but it included eight men. The special birthday card that includes all the names reads, “Congratulations for all the years in which you’ve lived well, laughed often, learned much. May your special day find you surrounded by loved ones, happy thoughts, favorite memories.”

The list of 2020 90-100-plus Monroe County birthdays includes:

Lillian Banks-91, Anne Brasher-91, Willie Mae Connell-93, Annie Mae Dewberry-96, Jack Fletcher-95, Dr. Cathryn Fletcher-92, Claudia Gibson-93, Wlater Ham-90, Annie Hansford-100, Perry Haralson-90, Antoinette James-95, David King-91, Julia Hill-92, Hattie Jackson-92, Alma McCray-94, Elijah Ogletree-96, Leila Ponder-91, Dot Rodeheaver-90, Margaret Smith-91, Nellie Smith-93, Roberta Smith-97, Dorothy Stewart-91, Glover Stuart-92, Shirley Treadwell-93, Bessie Turner-102, Willie Watson-91, Grover Tyner-97, Willie Watson-91, and Willie B. White-96.

The group lost six members since last year, and the celebration was also dedicated to their memory:  Hattie Driskell, Laura Fletcher, Rosa Lee Hampton, Lula Jones, Viola Lamar, Helen Pennington, Dorothy Zellner.