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Local woman celebrates 100th birthday
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A grin comes to Martha McLendon's aged face as three of her great-granddaughters run to her chair. The smallest crawls up in her lap and the other two shower her with kisses and hugs.

"Is it really your 100th birthday?" asked one of the blonde-headed girls.

"It sure is!" says McLendon, patting her great-grandchild on the arm.

Throughout her 100 years, McLendon has always managed to awe those around her. Her premature birth was a surprise to her mother who went into pre-term labor while doing her annual spring cleaning.

McLendon's mother was laying the mattresses outside in the yard at their home in Thomson when she began to have labor pains. Later that day, McLendon was born at home, two months premature, on April 11, 1912.

"I must have gotten a good start to live this long," giggled McLendon.

Later in 1934, McLendon graduated college with her teaching certificate from the Georgia State College for Women - known today as Georgia College and State University.

Graduating from college was a major feat for two reasons. First, many women during that time neither attended college nor worked outside of the home. Second, her parents could not afford to send McLendon to college.

Her uncle offered to lend the family money to cover McLendon's college expenses. Four years later, McLendon received her degree, but not before expressing her strong distaste for the brown uniforms the girls were required to wear.

"I hated those ugly brown uniforms," said McLendon rolling her eyes.

McLendon showed her distaste by wearing her brown uniform inside out and "remodeling" her hat.

After graduating, McLendon taught for 26 years off and on to tend to her three children Ann, Joe and Tom.

McLendon taught in Dearing, Dekalb, Walton and Newton Counties. In 1974, she retired from Palmer Stone Elementary School in Oxford.

When she began teaching in Dearing County, Ga., she was paid $50 a month for nine months out of the year. During the summers, she would go back home to Thomson.

While teaching in Dekalb in her late 20s, McLendon met her husband, Nicholas Henry McLendon. He was an optician for the military and served during World War II fitting GIs for glasses.

For much of their young married life, the family moved where the military stationed them until the couple bought a farm in Newton County.

The most life-changing event in McLendon's life was the loss of her husband who died at 56 from heart problems in 1969.

"We did have a good many years, but it was devastating," said McLendon softly. "I never thought then that I would have to be without him."

Throughout her lifetime, McLendon has been witness to many changes, especially in Social Circle and the Newton County area.

"It's growing," said McLendon. "There's more industry."

She's also amazed at everything that is available in today's world.

"I grew up during the Depression days. I never threw anything away," said McLendon. "I still hate to see food wasted."

McLendon says that her secret to living to 100 is to stay active.

"I never sat still," she said. "I always loved to be outside."

After retiring, McLendon became involved in the American Red Cross and spent a lot of time visiting those in nursing homes.

McLendon has three children, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren with another on the way.

McLendon celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday at the First Baptist Church in Social Circle surrounded by her family, friends and former students.

"I know what it is to have hardship," said McLendon. "But, the good Lord has been good to me."