Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

EDYTHE JOHNSON CELEBRATED her 100th birthday by getting back to her childhood. The Callicoon resident snuck a finger into her birthday cake’s icing and tasted. “Mmmm. . .” she said to a crowd full of laughing neighbors.

100 Years, But
She's Not Old

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON — September 9, 2003 – It isn’t every day the whole town shows up on your doorstep.
But Edythe Johnson isn’t your every day type of person.
The Callicoon resident turned 100 years old Saturday. But when you ask her just what it’s like to be 100, her eyes start to glimmer.
“I don’t know,” she says with a hint of mischief in her voice. “What are all these old people doing here?”
Well, someone asks, what kind of advice would you give someone on living to 100?
“I’d advise everyone to do it – if they can make it,” she adds with a grin.
It seemed the whole town turned out for Johnson’s 100th birthday party Sunday afternoon – the “open house” was advertised in the Democrat so no one would be left off of the guest list.
According to daughter Joan, Johnson is the oldest living member of the Callicoon United Methodist Church and an upstanding member of the community.
“She’s an inspiration for the rest of the church,” Joan Johnson said.
The elder Johnson was born and raised in northwestern New Jersey. She taught school in Blairstown, N.J., before marrying Merritt Johnson and staying at home to raise their daughter.
Unable to sit still at home, Johnson spent her time in the church and helping others – during World War II she knit sweaters, hats and scarves for the troops overseas.
That hobby later turned to making baby bonnets, and now she makes hats for the homeless.
“She was always there for me,” Joan recalled. “I wasn’t a latchkey kid.
“She was very active in the church, both in New Jersey and here, and she was a Girl Scout mom and choir mother.”
The Johnsons moved to Callicoon after Merritt’s retirement in 1968, and Edythe quickly got involved in her new community.
She volunteered at Grover Hermann Hospital and joined the ladies group at the Methodist Church.
“She’s caring,” Joan said. “She’s not outgoing, but she’s willing to help people.
“She has a lot of faith in God,” Joan added. “Steve Duffy [a fellow parishioner] put it very nicely – ‘Without a word, she says volumes with a look and a smile.’
“‘She still has the ability to capture a room,’” she continued, reading from a happy birthday message written up by Duffy for the Sunday morning service.
And the lady who rides her wheelchair into church – even after a fall broke her hip and kept her out of the building for a few months – garnered a standing ovation during Sunday services.
“She says she doesn’t know what’s going to happen when she gets old,” Joan said with a laugh.

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