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Yankee Doodle gal celebrates 100th birthday

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By The Staff

By JENNIFER RAYMOND

rcraymond@bellsouth.net

Living to be 100 years old is remarkable enough, but this centenarian is special in more ways than one.

Elizabeth Rains was born on the Fourth of July in 1908.

To help celebrate, Rains was asked by to be the special guest grand marshal for the Kingston Fourth of July Parade.

Rains joked that she needed to practice her parade wave.

“I think it’s a little late to change the way you wave,” her niece, Amanda Miller, shot back.

Rains will also be celebrating after the parade at a party at First Baptist Church, Kingston, where she has been a member for more than 30 years.

Miller said that everyone is invited.

“I’ve got grandchildren coming in from Michigan,” Rains said. “I told them that Granny can’t fix that much food for that many people, and they’ll have to go out.”

Rains planned on being decked in patriotic colors, using the quilting and piecing skills she acquired over the years.

A quilt made in the 1930s drapes over a bed in a small, spare bedroom and is one of many handmade items that can be seen around her home.

Rains’ infectious laugh and gentle smile are inviting as she tells her story and the many things she’s seen through her kind eyes. Remembering dates, names and small details is an easy task for this birthday girl.

She was born in Rockwood and lived on New Hope Valley Road where her family had a large farm with chickens, dogs, cats and horses.

“We had anything that was reared on the farm,” Rains said.

Rains had a large family with many siblings, some from her parents’ previous marriages.

Miller added, “My dad said it was like the Waltons — at least two or three deep in every room.”

The house had 11 rooms and three big porches.

Life on the 265-acre farm left Rains with a green thumb.

“She’s a farmer; she knows how to make things grow,” Miller said.

Rains is known for her famous squash relish and has tomato plants growing on the side of her house.

“This is the first year that I didn’t can fruits and vegetables,” Rains said.

She also has yellow daffodils that she calls “Easter flowers” that were originally at the farm on New Hope Valley Road. Whenever she moved, the flowers moved with her.

“It’s amazing that she took those daffodils from where she grew up,” Miller said.

Rains lived on the farm with her family until she married at the young age of 15 to Earl Gregory in 1923 and moved to Michigan shortly after.

“I woke up a many time to snow up to my knees,” Rains said.

“That’s not very high on you,” Miller quipped of Rains’ short stature.

When Rains was 17, she and Gregory had one son, Jim.

Rains said she received a call from Jim recently.

He asked her how old she would be on her birthday. When she responded with 100, Jim said, “Lord have mercy, no wonder I am an old man.”

Rains stayed in Michigan during World War II when her son and two brothers, Charles and Bob, were sent overseas to fight.

She became one of the many homemakers at the time who went to work in the factories.

She helped build amphibious crafts used by soldiers that were floatation devices.

“We made them at the General Motors plant,” Rains said.

Her husband died in the late 1960s, and soon after she married Lincoln Rains.

She was married a little less than two years and suffered the death of her second husband.

“My husband died and left me by myself,” Rains said.

She decided to move back to Roane County to be closer to her family. The Delaney and the Bowman families, her mother’s side, have a long tradition in the county and many still live here.

“The Delaneys lived between Rockwood and Kingston for generations,” Miller said.

She moved to Kingston in 1974 and has been there ever since.

Rains has seen a lot in her long life and says one of the most heart-breaking changes over the years is the decline in church attendance.

“I’d rather give up anything I had other than my church affiliation,” Rains said.

She said it is disappointing to see churches closing and businesses open on Sunday.

“One day, if we don’t turn around, we’ll see some rough times,” Rains said.

She spoke of the importance of attending church and America’s responsibility as a Chris-tian nation.

Although she has seen some negative changes, she has also been around to see some good changes in society.

One of these is the move away from racial segregation and prejudice.

“They had a rough time,” Rains said. “God said to treat them just the same cause he made them just like you.”

Although Rains has seen a lot in her lifetime, a look at a digital camera makes her gasp. She remembers the time of the Brownie Camera and sending the pictures to be processed.

“Well you’ve got the pictures right there,” Rains said. “In the name of Pete.”

Rains, the middle child between her two brothers, is still the same feisty person who kept them in line.

“My mother said she was the only one who could get my father to do anything,” Miller said.

She still doesn’t have a problem with telling people like it is.

She said the organizers of the parade wanted her to sit in a rocking chair on a convertible and that was something she just wasn’t having.

“I told them, ‘I’m old, but I’m not nuts,’” Rains said.