Strong turns 100, remains true to name

Published 7:43 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

By By Lydia Grimes – features reporter
Jessie Strong will reach a milestone in her life Thursday as she celebrates her 100th birthday. Strong doesn't seem to think it is much of a big deal, but those around her are excited about the event.
Strong was born in 1908 to Tom and Ella Hardy, the fourth child in a family of 10 children.
The family lived on Rogers Street, and Strong's father worked for T.R. Miller Mill Company.
Strong's father was hurt at the mill, so her mother went to work at C.P. Holman's drug store, which was on the corner of Douglas and Belleville. After her father was injured, the money he received from the mill was used to purchase 11 acres of land near the end of St. Joseph Avenue, north of downtown. The family moved there, and during hard times, they grew their own food.
Strong attended the city school and graduated from the ninth grade in 1926. She went to work with her mother, washing and ironing. She helped look after her brothers and sisters when her mother went to work at the drug store.
Later, when her sister died, she took the sister's four children to raise. That was the beginning of her being the nurturing “parent” for other children who needed her. She now has an extensive family that number “so many I can't count,” she said.
Strong also remembers almost losing her life when she was a little girl after she fell and was washed under a bridge. Strong said she shouted so loud that her mother came running and jumping in to save her.
She remembers the flood of 1929 when everything in downtown Brewton was under water. She even remembers the airplanes dropping food to the stranded residents.
Church has played a big part in Strong's life. In fact, it was at church that she met her husband, Dennis Strong. They were married in 1943 when she was 35 years old. They never had any children of their own, but their house was full of nieces and nephews. There was always plenty of food raised in the garden nearby.
Strong's sister worked for Mr. and Mrs. Jack W. Hines and at the sister's death, Strong took on the job at the Hines's home.
Not only did Strong meet her husband in church, but she has kept her religious beliefs and is very faithful to Second Saint Siloam Missionary Baptist, which she joined at the age of 12. She remembers when the church was down in “Baptist Corner” across Ann Street. The church was moved to the First Saint Siloam site on Sowell Road and then split to form Second Saint Siloam.
Strong lost her husband in 1970 when he died in a vehicle accident as her drove home from Pensacola where he was working. Since that time, she has lived in her home on St. Joseph Avenue. Strong said she always has plenty of company dropping by.
Strong's niece, Diane Riley, said her relatives' strong sense of family comes from “Miss Jessie.”