Woman with 88 great-grandchildren celebrates 100th birthday with drive-thru party

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Julia Lee Kelley marked her 100th birthday on Saturday with a drive-thru celebration.
Credit: Courtesy Michelle Williams

FRANKLINTON, N.C. (CNN) — When you live to see your 100th birthday, even the coronavirus can’t stop the party.

Julia Lee Kelley celebrated turning the big 100 with a drive-thru birthday celebration, over the weekend. “Thank the Lord for allowing me to make it to 100,” Kelley told CNN.

She has lived to see six generations in her family. She is a mother to five children and grandmother to 30 grandchildren, 88 great-grandchildren, 49 great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild.

“No way you can let a century go by and not celebrate,” Kelley’s great-granddaughter, Kelley Oakley said.

The family originally planned to celebrate Kelley’s centennial birthday by renting out a building and throwing a party. However, due to the ongoing pandemic and public health measures limiting large gatherings of people in North Carolina, those plans were canceled, Oakley said.

“We didn’t want too many people too close to her … that was the reason for the drive-thru,” said Kelley’s daughter, Catherine Williams.

On August 8, at 3 p.m., the birthday girl sat under a tent outside her Franklinton, North Carolina, home while a parade of cars filled with family, friends, and church members lined the path of her property to share birthday wishes, according to Oakley.

“They blew the horns. They had their cars decorated. They had balloons out the window. And my little cousins got the cards for her and put (them) in a box,” Oakley said.

Williams was shocked at how many joined the celebration. She estimated that at least 25 to 30 cars were there to celebrate the matriarch’s milestone.

Although there were limited hugs and kisses, the grandmother told CNN she was overwhelmed with happiness as her loved ones drove by to wish her well. “I just felt like hollering and crying or shouting,” Kelley said. “I was so happy to see my friends, family and church members.”

At triple digits, Kelley is thankful to still have her independence. She continues to go to church every Sunday, cook and tend to her flowers.

As for what it takes to live to see your 100th year, Kelley says it all comes down to God’s grace.

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