BREAKING
BREAKING: Thompson Bridge Road closed after fatality wreck involving pedestrian
Police are on the scene and motorists should avoid the area
Full Story
By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The coronavirus couldn't stop this World War II veteran from celebrating his 100th birthday
04252020 VETERAN 1.jpg
Tom Henderson listens and watches as relatives sing Happy Birthday to him Friday, April 24, 2020, from the lawn at his residence at Smoky Springs in Gainesville. It was the WWII Veteran's 100th birthday. - photo by Scott Rogers

Tom Henderson, who turned 100 on Friday, April 24, doesn’t take his century of life for granted.

“I used to use the past tense when I would say, ‘I have been blessed,’” he said. “I have changed that to ‘I am being blessed.”

04252020 VETERAN 2.jpg
Family and relatives of Tom Henderson gather Friday, April 24, 2020, on the lawn outside his residence at Smoky Springs in Gainesville to sing Happy Birthday to the WWII Veteran on his 100th birthday. - photo by Scott Rogers

As he peered out of his small patio in the Smoky Springs retirement community on Friday, a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” rang out from gathered members of Northlake Baptist Church. The group — many of which have attended church with Henderson for over three decades — followed the familiar tune with the 100-year-old’s favorite hymn, “Victory in Jesus.”

“He’s an important person in our community to so many people at the church,” Letsa Parker said. “He’s a World War II veteran. The stories that he has told, they’re just incredible.”

Henderson was in the Army Air Corps, now called the Air Force, from 1942-1945. He served under Gen. George S. Patton after the Normandy landings and during the Battle of the Bulge. Even before WWII, he personally knew Patton, who was the commanding officer at Fort Benning when Henderson worked for the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The greatest privilege and honor of my life was to have the privilege of serving my country,” Henderson said, emotion in his voice.

Danny Jones, pastor of Northlake First Baptist, said after D-Day, Henderson served out of a flight hangar in France. When bombers’ planes were hit or damaged, he would repair them.

04252020 VETERAN 3.jpg
Family and relatives of Tom Henderson gather Friday, April 24, 2020, on the lawn outside his residence at Smoky Springs in Gainesville to sing Happy Birthday to the WWII Veteran on his 100th birthday. - photo by Scott Rogers

“He has lived a very interesting life,” Jones said. “He was raised in the Great Depression up here in the Banks County area. He’s always been a very positive person, and he’s just a great Christian man.”

A wide grin spread on Henderson’s face as many of his favorite people honored him on Friday. Although it was his 100th birthday, he said he couldn’t help but feel surprised at the large display of love.

“The only bad thing about it is that I recognized it too late,” Henderson said. “I should’ve recognized it a long time ago how loving they are, and how they really felt.”

Henderson said he owes his longevity to his family’s genetics and God.

After his death, the 100-year-old doesn’t want flowers at his burial, nor an open casket funeral. 

“If you have a flower, give it to me now,” he said. “I want people to remember me as I was. I want them to remember that I loved them and smiled, and tried to be pleasant.”

04252020 VETERAN 4.jpg
Tom Henderson lowers his head as relatives sing him a church hymn Friday, April 24, 2020, from his back porch at Smoky Springs in Gainesville. It was the WWII Veteran's 100th birthday. - photo by Scott Rogers

Watch people surprise Tom Henderson, a World War II veteran who just turned 100, with his favorite song.

Northlake Baptist Church members sing Tom Henderson's favorite hymn, "Victory in Jesus," for his 100th birthday.
By: Kelsey Podo

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video

Regional events