Holland celebrates 100 years

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FRANKLIN—Benjamin Jackson “B.J.” Holland celebrated more than just his 100th birthday on Tuesday.

Franklin Mayor-elect Raystine Johnson hands Benjamin Jackson "B.J." Holland a proclamation for turning 100 years old on Tuesday. -- GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

Holland commemorated the milestone knowing he can still drive, live on his own, cook and do laundry. He takes no medicine, doesn’t wear hearing aids and doesn’t need a cane. Holland attributes his longevity to his Christian lifestyle.

“I was brought up in a Christian home,” he said from his home in Holland. “I strayed away from it, but went back.”

More than 50 people on Tuesday celebrated Holland’s birthday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Franklin, where he goes to the senior center five days week. Three days a week, Holland gets a ride on a van. The other two days, he drives his 1994 Caprice Classic.

“He’s in great shape,” said Rick Copeland, who is Holland’s godson from Raleigh, N.C.

“He takes people to vote and gets orders for breakfast and dinner when the Holland-Holy Neck Civic League has a fundraiser,” Copeland said.

Born on June 5, 1912, in Holland, the centenarian came from a family of seven. A 91-year-old brother survives.

He was married to his wife, Naomi, for 60 years. She passed away in 2002 at age 80. The couple never had children.

Holland farmed until 1980.

“At age 7, he began plowing the fields before walking four miles to school,” said Franklin Mayor-elect Raystine Johnson, who presented Holland with a proclamation from the city.

Up until age 85, he chopped firewood to heat his home and transported folks in a van to the senior center.

He gave up mowing his lawn a few years ago and has been hospitalized twice in his lifetime.

Copeland, who was raised by the Hollands until he was 5 years old, said he never saw B.J. Holland get mad.

“He’s very even tempered,” Copeland said.

The 51-year-old said his godfather doesn’t drink or smoke, enjoys seeing good-looking women and sleeps 12 hours a night.

“When (CBS Evening News anchor) Walter Cronkite would say ‘that’s the way it is’ (at the end of his 6:30 p.m. broadcast), he (Holland) went to sleep,” Copeland said.

The Rev. William Lang, pastor of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, called Holland an inspiration.

“When I see him every Sunday at Mt. Sinai, he gives his testimony,” Lang said.