PICKENS COUNTY—Before Joseph Elias blew out the candles at his 102nd birthday party, he took just a moment to reflect.
Elias, who now has his own day on Jan. 11, was surprised by a celebration in his honor last Friday at the Seniors Unlimited Center in Central that featured appearances from Senator Larry Martin and Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark.
Martin said it was an honor to participate.
“We are so proud to be able to participate in this,” Martin said. “The good Lord deals with each of us in his own way. He has dealt with Joseph Elias in a very special way in allowing him to be with us for 102 years and beyond.”
After being dropped off in a stretch limousine, Elias was greeted by a group of his friends to the tune of “happy birthday.” Needless to say, he was not expecting such a spectacular celebration.
“It was a very big surprise,” Elias said. “I can’t get over it. I will remember this day forever.”
After hearing his friends share kind words in his honor, watching a slide show to commemorate his life and learning that he would soon throw out the first pitch at a Greenville Drive baseball game, Elias paused before blowing out his candles.
The 102 year old, who still lives alone, whispered “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” and took a quiet moment in the midst of the joyous celebration.
It was not until after the festivities that he revealed what was going through his mind.
“I never thought I would hit 100,” Elias said. “Life is a struggle and it’s not easy.”
Despite a life full of activities, Elias can quickly list you his greatest accomplishment.
“I had a beautiful wife. She was a wonderful person. We were married 67 years,” Elias said. “(The key) is to take it one day at a time. God is in control of everything.”
Elias tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 17, and secured a spot on a minor league baseball roster shortly thereafter. Elias lost two brothers during World War II, and remembers the building of the empire state building and the World Trade Centers.
After 102 years, what advice does Elias have for the next generation?
“Don’t get there,” he said. “Stay young.”