With Ty Osborne, you know it’s Sunday
By Scott Jenkins
firstname.lastname@example.orgLANDIS ó On any given Sunday, you don’t have to look hard to find Ty Osborne.
Drive into Landis on Main Street, turn onto Mill Street and go about a block. That’s where you’ll find First United Methodist Church.
And, on any given Sunday, that’s where you’ll find Osborne.
The congregation at First United Methodist recently recognized the Landis resident for perfect attendance. Not five, 10 or even 20 years, mind you. Osborne, 81, hasn’t missed going to church in 76 years.
And for Robert Ellis, who helps teach the Adult Bible Studies class Osborne attends before weekly services, knowing his faithful student will be in the pew listening is somewhat of an inspiration.
“He’s there every Sunday,” Ellis said. “I love it.”
And of Osborne in general, Ellis said simply, “He’s great.”
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Osborne’s unbroken string of Sundays didn’t start out as a spiritual journey. It began in 1933 with a 5-year-old boy’s quest for something much more material ó a new bike.
“My aunt told me if I’d go a year without missing church, she’d buy me a bicycle,” Osborne recalled.
As his aunt Bess Osborne had requested, little Ty Osborne made it to Sunday services without fail for the next year. He got his bike. It had “lights and everything,” Osborne said, and it cost $29.95. But along the way, he acquired something else, too ó a love of church.
He started riding that new bike to First United Methodist about a half-mile from his family’s mill house in Landis.
“I ain’t missed since,” he said.
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Osborne’s parents named him James. But a speech impediment prevented him from speaking early in childhood and made it difficult when he did. He believes he got the nickname Ty because people said he was tongue-tied.
“I didn’t say nothing till I was 6 years old and hadn’t hushed up since,” he said.
Still, Ty is what folks have called him ever since. It’s how he’s known around Landis, and a lot of people know Osborne. Besides his faithfulness to church attendance, he’s gained some renown as a cook.
“He’s the best cook I’ve ever seen,” said Eddie Brown, a friend who doesn’t attend First United Methodist. “He can flat put something on the table.”
Osborne says both his parents were good cooks, and his dad put on fish fries. He’s carried on the tradition.
“When we got married, I done the cooking and my wife done the cleaning up the dishes,” he said.
For years, Osborne has used his culinary talent feed multitudes. He’s not, however, serving loaves and fishes. Every year on his birthday, Osborne cooks up about 90 pieces of barbecued chicken, 20 pounds of potato salad and 18 gallons of Brunswick stew.
He feeds family and friends at his house and takes part of the feast to Sandy Ridge convenience store, where he worked part time for about 35 years before back troubles forced him to quit about a year ago.
And he carries still more to his church, where he invites people to make donations when they eat and gives all the money to ministries.
“He basically runs a church fundraiser every year on his birthday,” said the Rev. Bev Coppley, pastor at First United Methodist. Among other things, his cooking helped pay for a playground the church plans to install.
Osborne also cooks annually for the church’s Golden Agers group.
“He’s just a wonderful person,” his friend, Brown, said. “He’s always doing something for somebody.”
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When Osborne was a youngster, he loved to play skee ball at the beach. And he was good.
“I got to where every time I rolled them things, I won a teddy bear,” he said. “And they cut me off, said I couldn’t play no more.”
Even though he couldn’t win any more stuffed animals, Osborne’s ability served him in other games. The proof is in the trophies he later took home. He still has some of them at his house, including some for horseshoes tournament championships at Dan Nicholas Park.
But even in displaying achievements, Osborne’s priorities are evident. Those trophies line a shelf in a room used for storage. The framed certificate First United Methodist presented to him hangs on the wall just inside the front door.
And his dedication was evident even as a child, said his sister, Maudine Kelly.
“He was ready every Sunday,” she said.
Without being prodded by his parents, who didn’t attend church with him, Osborne kept getting ready every week. And even when learning difficulties got the better of him and he quit public school, he kept going to Sunday school.
After he married and had two sons and a daughter, he stayed faithful. He worked at mills in Landis, Lexington and Kannapolis for more than 40 years, but he made sure to be at church on Sunday mornings.
And time off didn’t mean time off from church. Osborne has been to churches at Carolina Beach, the Outer Banks, in the mountains, South Carolina, Florida, Las Vegas and just outside Yellowstone National Park.
Osborne said he’s not sure it would have mattered much to God if he had missed a service here and there, if he’d stayed on the beach and fished some Sunday mornings ó and maybe said a prayer for a bigger catch ó instead of finding a local sanctuary.
But it matters to him.
“I believe it does make me feel closer to God,” he said. “I don’t know how you’d feel if you missed a Sunday, but I know I felt good when I went.”
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“Ain’t been but one time I thought I might not make it,” Osborne said.
He needed surgery for a hernia. The doctors wanted to perform the operation on a Friday. He vetoed that idea, went to church Sunday morning and checked himself in at the hospital that evening for a Monday procedure, but only after doctors assured him he’d be able to attend church the next week.
And there have been obstacles to overcome. One Sunday morning when he was working at a local mill and living about a mile and a half off Main Street, an unexpected snow prevented him from getting his car up the hill.
“I said ‘I better get started. I’ll be there the time church starts,’ ” he recalled. So he started walking. Along the way, he got a ride.
His pastor, Coppley, said the church honored Osborne as much for that kind of dedication as for his perfect attendance.
“I think he’s an encouragement to a lot of people who may even get up on Sunday morning and wonder, ‘Do i feel like going? Should I use my gas to go to church?’ ” she said. “And i think Ty is a living affirmation that, yes you should.”
The church called the day it recognized Osborne a “Day of Faithfulness.” Coppley said the congregation talked about perseverance, inspiring others and what it means to keep doing something because it’s the right thing to do.
Osborne gets a lot out of it, too.
He likes to hear preachers talk about the Lord. He likes to listen to Bible stories. And he likes to hear hymns being sung, as long as he’s not the one singing.
“They’d all be leaving if I started trying to sing,” he said.
That’s probably not true. They might leave if he wasn’t there, thinking it must not be Sunday.
“I think Ty’s one of those special people who embodies what I see to be the core values of that church … unity, generosity and love,” his pastor, Coppley, said. “He’s just a really special part of the Landis community and a really special part of our church.”