‘Work hard, do a good job’: Thomas Seamon celebrates 100th birthday

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 12, 2024

Hard work is what Thomas Seamon would say is has helped keep him staying young and active and is the advice he would pass along to future generations.

Seamon of Woodleaf turned 100 on May 8 and continues to do what he can around his home, including mowing the grass and working a little bit in his garden, growing garden favorites such as tomatoes, okra and others.

To celebrate this special milestone, his family hosted a birthday party for him on May 4 with family, church friends and neighborhood friends there, numbering approximately 65-70 in attendance. The event was held in the fellowship hall at Needmore Baptist Church in Woodleaf, where Seamon attends.

A big fan of the Atlanta Braves, they used the theme of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, both in the decorations and the birthday cake, and the served, as his daughters Barbara McDaniel and Judy Neal, shared, “anything you would have at a ballgame concession stand” including hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, peanuts, Crackers Jacks, Baby Ruth candy, and Little Debbie baseball shaped cakes.

 “I’ve never seen so much food,” said Seamon.

He said that he enjoyed the party and getting to see a lot of folks.

Born May 8, 1924 to Charlie and Grace Holt Seamon, he was the oldest of five children, which included brothers, Harold and Dan, and sisters, Cleo and Myrtle. Of these, his youngest sister, Myrtle Cook, who lives in Davie County, is the only other surviving sibling.

“I tell folks I was born at cotton-planting time,” Seamon said, which is something he knew about as he spent time working in the fields during his life. 

A life-long resident of the area, he said he was born and raised not far from where he currently lives, on a pretty good sized farm where his family were sharecroppers.

They raised cotton and while they didn’t raise tobacco themselves, he said when he was little, he helped other farmers who did.

Seamon and Zelma Ward, who has died, got married in York, S.C., and were married for 73 years. The couple had three children — two daughters, Barbara and Judy, and one son, Kenneth Seamon, who he said they “lost after returning from Vietnam.” He also has five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

Some, he said, live nearby in Mocksville, others are in High Point, Winston-Salem and Lynchburg, Virginia, so it was fun to be able to see family as all were there for the party except two.

Seamon mentioned that he received some calls and cards for his birthday and one that was a surprise to him was a congratulatory letter from President Joe Biden, which wished him well for his birthday and thanked him for his service in the United States Army.

He served in the Army for three years with the 95th infantry division and was involved in multiple campaigns including some in Germany and central Europe. He entered the service in 1942 and returned to the United States in 1945 having earned the rank of sergeant.

Prior to his time in the military, Seamon had been working at Irvin Cotton Mill, which he started after getting out of school in the eighth grade. He returned to the mill where he worked for 22 years until they closed and then went to Celanese where he worked another 22 years.

“I can’t believe I’ve been retired 32 years,” he said.

Both daughters, McDaniel and Neal, have witnessed their dad’s very strong work ethic all their lives, telling that he broke his elbow one day at work, and Neal said he came home and went back to work the next day with it broken.

“You don’t stay out of work,” McDaniel said. “If you were sick, you went to work, if you were hurt, you went to work.”

They learned this work ethic from him as they have shown it in their own lives having spent 40 years in their respective careers prior to their retirement.

Neal said they learned that “if somebody was going to pay you, you gave them a day’s work.”

Thinking of all the changes he has seen during his lifetime, Seamon said he remembers the horse and buggy days and those rough roads. He recalled when his dad got a T-Model Ford and got to drive it himself at the young age of 10 or 11.

“I would drive it to the cotton field and bring the cotton up,” he said. “Back then you didn’t have to have a driver’s license.”

He recalled the family having a battery-operated radio and listening to “The Lone Ranger,” which, along with the weather, was just about all they could get.

Memories of all the farmland and older neighbors that used to be around were shared and the fact that both are gone now.

Walking to school was another memory that he shared and how when he was in the fourth grade at Cool Springs School he got to ride the bus.

That was “big time” and exciting, he said.

Neal mentioned that her dad would trap rabbits and sell them to get money to go to the movie theater.

He said he could get 15 cents for a box-trapped rabbit and 10 cents for one he shot. He would then ride his bicycle to Mocksville where he had some regular customers who bought them for the meat.

Along with the rabbits, Seamon also hunted squirrels, possums and said with a smile, “I thought of myself as the great white hunter back then.”

Lots of changes have taken place, he said, and while he didn’t want a microwave at first, Neal said he can’t live without it now.

He remembered the four-party line telephone and all the other people on that same line and their first refrigerator which they got after World War II and going to someone else’s house on a Saturday night to watch television until they got one of their own.

Now he enjoys watching his Atlanta Braves on television, and has his schedule of their upcoming games right beside him.

He has been a fan ever since they came to Atlanta he said, noting that he has been to watch them in person several times. McDaniel said that her parents and she and her sister and their families had gone together and shared a photo of the family all sitting in the stands with her dad intently watching the game with his binoculars.

Seamon said he didn’t really care much for football or basketball, but he enjoyed baseball and played some while he was in school.

Music has always been something that he enjoys listening to, with bluegrass being his favorite.

While relaxing in his favorite chair, he enjoys looking out his window and watching the cars that go by the house or the birds and squirrels that are in his yard.

In addition to working hard, Seamon said that just keeping on going is something he felt had helped him keep that young at heart attitude, and drinking black coffee, Neal added. He then pointed upward and said that the Lord has “kept me here this long.”

And the advice he would pass along to others? He said, with a chuckle, “work hard, do a good job.”