By Kendal Groner
Leona Rhodes celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday, Sept. 16, among close family and friends. Her artwork, handmade quilts and old photographs on display indicated a life rich with experiences.
Rhodes was born near Eaton, Indiana, but she spent most of her time living in Ohio. She has also lived in Arizona and Florida before she moved to Tennessee in order to be closer to family.
“When my mother was five years old she went out on the porch and said ‘I’m going to live to be 100’, and she did,” said Lana Smith, Rhodes’ daughter.
Among those present at the party were Rhodes’ four children: Laura Hilton, Larry Rhodes, Leon Rhodes and Lana Smith. Neither Rhodes nor her children seemed surprised that she has lived to be 100.
“I just didn’t expect to be this lively,” said Rhodes. “I guess if I have any advice it’s just to do the best that you can.”
Aside from being a dedicated housewife and homemaker Rhodes worked as an elementary school teacher for close to 50 years.
“My children are my greatest achievement” she said. “Family has always been so important to me.”
In addition to teaching, Rhodes has spent a great deal of her time learning artistic trades that required her to work with her hands. She has even passed some of her talents down to her children.
“She taught me all of the things she enjoyed doing with her hands. I learned embroidering, knitting, sewing, crocheting and quilting from her,” Smith said. “She took the time to teach me all of those things, and I still do them.”
Her daughter-in-law, Marilyn Bailey, said there isn’t a single craft that Rhodes hasn’t been able to do. Rhodes said she began taking art classes because they were cheap and it was something she had always wanted to do. After many years’ worth of beautiful creations, Rhodes is still humble about her talents.
“I guess some of the stuff I made is pretty good,” she said.
Rhodes and her family traded memories, shared laughs and enjoyed food with one another until it was time to cut the cake.
“If I have to blow out 100 candles I might need some help,” Rhodes joked.