By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Family members from California, New York, Virginia, Florida and all over South Carolina converged on Shoney’s Restaurant in Hartsville over the weekend to celebrate the 100th birthday of their beloved patriarch, Johnny Davis of Lydia.
Born in Lee County, Jan. 15, 1919, Davis lost his father at a very early age. He left school in the fourth grade to work and help his mother care for his younger siblings. Davis remained a sharecropper all his life, and worked tirelessly to provide for his wife, Mildred (now deceased) and their 13 children.
Raising 10 boys and three girls could have tried the patience of most people, but Davis’ children describe him as unfailingly kind and generous with his time, resources and love.
“You could ask him for a dollar and he’d give it to you, then ask him for another dollar the next week and he’d give it to you. He was never the kind to say, ‘But I just gave you something and you never paid me back.’ That’s not the kind of man he is,” says eldest daughter Barbara Troy. “He’s no-nonsense, cool and full of wisdom. And you can tell him something in secret and he will never break that confidence.”
Seventh son William Timothy Davis agrees, and adds that Johnny always wanted his children to love each other, and themselves, even more during difficult times.
“I wasn’t always the best guy, and I went through some bad times. My father didn’t give up on me, and he gave me some good advice. He told me that I needed to love Timothy first,” he says, tapping a fist over his heart. “And he was right.”
Johnny and Mildred were married for 62 years, and their family has grown to include 13 children, 38 grandchildren, 76 great-grandchildren and 22 great-great-grandchildren. Many of those descendants trekked to Hartsville to visit with Johnny and to return some of the kindness and affection he has shown them for so many years.
Asked if he has a life philosophy to share with others, Johnny says his motto is really pretty simple.
It comes down to three words that you should strive to live each day: “Plan, patience, and love,” he says, smiling.