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Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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October 2009 Calendar - Willie Brandon, 103

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At 103, Willie Brandon "just keeps on going"
by Scott Broden
Daily News Journal, June 10, 2009

Born June 12, 1906, Willie Brandon still knows how to light up a Rutherford County Courthouse with laughter.
       "Everything has quit working but my brain," Brandon told a few dozen folks gathered for his 103rd birthday party Friday.
       "He's something else," County Mayor Ernest Burgess said. "If he just knows who he is at 103, it's remarkable."
       Prior to this year, Brandon had been a courthouse custodian since 1979. He had to stop working last January after falling in the men's room on the second floor.       

Rutherford County Commissioner Joyce Ealy and Willie Brandon, 103

County Commissioner Joyce Ealy gives Willie Brandon
a balloon that says “Happy Birthday Slugger” at
Brandon's 103rd birthday party at the courthouse.
Photo: John A Gillis; Photo courtesy of Daily News Journal

       "Everyone in the building had left except for me," said Brandon, recalling that a co-worker found him about an hour later. "I fell on my back. We've all had falls."
       Brandon said he blacked out about the time an ambulance crew took him to the hospital.
       "I laid on my back for two weeks," he said. Brandon said he was fortunate to have a wonderful doctor and others to help him with treatment.
       "He didn't have to work with much," Brandon said. "A 103-year-old man is all worn out.
       “It's all about God," he added. "God is the ruler of all things. He made heaven and earth and man, and he's still in control. He commanded they work on me. I'm thankful. If I don't get better than I am, I'm thankful."
       Despite the fall, Brandon has not filed for retirement from a county job he's had for 30 years. His commitment amazes many other co-workers, including Ben Mankin, the director who oversees maintenance of county property.
       "I've never seen anything quite like it," Mankin said. "I've seen him leave the hospital and not even go to his house and head straight to work. That's the kind of work ethic you hardly ever see."
       Courthouse housekeeping supervisor Janie Davis agreed.
       "Willie's our boss," said Davis, who helped Brandon seek medical treatment after the fall. "He's such a doll. He's an icon, I'll tell you that."
       Davis wrote a book of the anecdotes from Brandon, a man she said worked as a cook at the James K. Polk Hotel and then the City Café before becoming a custodian at the courthouse.
       "He's full of stories," and they really did happen,
Davis added. "His grandfather (a slave in the 1800s) was sold on the courthouse steps for $100."
       Sheriff Truman Jones noted how he's known Brandon for years. "My family has known him all the way back to my grand-dad (Sam Jones)," the sheriff said. "I think Mr. Brandon is one of the greatest people in the United States. He set a work ethic that young people should pause and review. Everyone loves and respects Mr. Brandon.
       "He hasn't changed a bit. He always has a bright outlook. He's one of those people who picks you up every time you see him. Sweet, sweet gentleman."
       A cousin, Judge Larry Brandon, said the custodian has amazed him with his resilience.
       "I've known him as long as I've been alive," the judge said. "He just keeps on going. He's been up and down. At this point, he's up and still going."
       An administrative assistant for the mayor, Carolyn Holt, agreed.
       "It's just a blessing to see him doing so well," she said. "We're glad to have him."



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