As our country get set to celebrate its birthday, there's one man in Eastern Carolina who has seen plenty of them. He's passed the century mark by a few years and still lives on his own at home with his wife.
Henry Bryant from Columbia in Tyrrell County still enjoys spending time in his garden even if it means just sitting nearby and watching these days. But that's understandable. He's been retired now for 14-years. He finally quit working at age 90. That's right. He's 104-years old.
Caretaker and friend Dennis Terry says, "His mind is very sharp. He's moving a little slow, but that's to be expected, but his mind is very sharp."
It wasn't until Bryant turned 100 that he turned over the gardening duties to Terry. And that's only because his legs, as he says, wore out. Bryant says, "I reckon I walked half a million miles behind a mule plowing so my legs gave out before anything else."
So now when Bryant wants to check on his garden he either gets on his motorized wheelchair or behind the wheel of his car. Bryant can still drive, usually just in the yard, or down to the post office or store. But he says he'll probably give that up soon.
Vehicles today of course are a lot different than the first one Bryant had back in 1925, a Model-T. But then again, so is just about everything else in life and Bryant has been there to see it all.
Born and raised in Columbia, Bryant only went to school until he was a teenager. "I lost my daddy when I was fifteen and had to go to work to take care of my family."
Bryant was a logger, farmer, construction worker, worked for the Defense Department in Norfolk, VA during World War II, and built bridges in Washington D.C. In fact, he was there during the turbulent 60's. Bryant says, "When JFK got killed I was in D.C. And when his brother got killed I was there. When Martin Luther King Jr. got killed I was there in D.C."
They were major moments in history that Bryant lived through just as he did with two world wars, and the great depression. "We survived, come through it. I don't ever remember leaving the table hungry."
Bryant also lived through segregation and the civil rights movement and says he never thought he would see our country elect a black president. And while he voted for Barack Obama, it wasn't a given. Bryant is a lifelong Republican, but says he votes for just as many Democrats. So with all he's seen and been through in his 104 years, the good and the bad, the advancements and the setbacks...what does he think about the future of our country? Bryant says, "We're in trouble. We're in trouble. Yep, were in bad trouble."
And Bryant believes it all boils down to one thing. The way he sees it, were becoming less of a God fearing country.
So while he enjoys life with his second wife Nora of 63-years, watching some TV, surrounded by pictures of some of his seven children, he hopes for the best for our country. He says he doesn't really have any secrets for living a long life, but offers this advice. "Try to live right. Treat the other fellow as you wish to be treated."