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Oldest living LWC grad, Lorena Arnold Christie, returns for visit
Christie grew up in the Knifley area of Adair County, the oldest of 12 children born to Oscar and Ora Mae Arnold. Christie put off college until she was in her early 20s, graduating from LWC at the age of 25. And although cars were not uncommon in Adair County during her youth, Christie traveled to campus by horseback. . . When asked the secret to becoming a centenarian, Christie said 'to always remember to keep Jesus first in our lives.'
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By Duane Bonifer
COLUMBIA, KY - It would be an understatement to say that much has changed at Lindsey Wilson College since Lorena Arnold Christie was a student at the school. And last weekend, she learned just how much her alma mater has changed since she graduated from it in 1935.
Christie, who will be 105 on October 24, toured the campus on Saturday afternoon with her daughter Elizabeth Thompson and son-in-law David Thompson. Christie visited her alma mater "about two or three years ago, but we just drove around campus and didn't get out to see anything," Elizabeth Thompson said.
On Saturday, October 10, 2015 LWC Director of Alumni Relations Randy Burns escorted Christie and the Thompsons on a tour of a campus that was quite different from when Christie was a student in the mid-1930s. LWC had been founded 30 years earlier when Christie enrolled at the college as a freshman, and the campus had fewer than a half-dozen buildings. LWC now has more than five dozen buildings.
Burns reckons that Christie is the oldest living LWC graduate.
Christie grew up in the Knifley area of Adair County, the oldest of 12 children born to Oscar and Ora Mae Arnold. Christie put off college until she was in her early 20s, graduating from LWC at the age of 25. And although cars were not uncommon in Adair County during her youth, Christie traveled to campus by horseback.
"My Daddy said, 'My daughter wants to go to college, but we don't want her to stay in the dorms,'" Christie said.
So during the week she stayed with an uncle who lived in Columbia, and then rode her horse back home on the weekends to help on the family farm.
Christie said that LWC students "always had a lot of fun in the classroom" when she was a student at the college. And she remembered one teacher in particular -- "Mrs. Tucker," whose name is not in college records because she pre-dated the college's former yearbook, the Pine Cone, by more than three years.
"She was really a well-educated person, and we always wondered why she wanted to teach in the rural districts," Christie said. "She taught us a lot, and she taught us how to act, too. It was always a lot of fun in her classes, and we learned a lot from her."
Christie and her late husband, Wallace, dated for four years and then were married shortly after she graduated from LWC. Christie taught for three years in one-room schoolhouses in Adair County before she and Wallace began to travel for his work, eventually settling in Chattanooga, TN. Wallace died in 1981.
Christie has lived in the same house on Lindsey Avenue in Chattanooga for more than 60 years. In addition to Elizabeth, Christie has an older daughter, Sharon.
"It seems like she was almost destined to spend most of her life living on Lindsey Avenue," David Thompson said.
Christie returns to her native Southcentral Kentucky whenever there is a family reunion -- she is one of six children between the ages of 82 and 104 still living -- and she remains active in her community.
Christie visits a beautician almost every Friday, she attends church every Sunday, and she sees most of her grandchildren's sporting events. Almost every morning, she has a breakfast of scrambled eggs, fried bacon, toast, fruit, coffee and orange juice.
In addition to being the oldest living LWC graduate, Christie's son-in-law David Thompson said she is probably the oldest person to possess a license for handling explosives -- the Thompsons and Christie perform fireworks shows on the side.
When asked the secret to becoming a centenarian, Christie said "to always remember to keep Jesus first in our lives."
Christie learned to drive when she was in her early 70s, and she rode a motorcycle for the first time when she was 102. Whenever she returns to the region, Christie said she waxes nostalgic about growing up in Southcentral Kentucky.
"They were wonderful times, and I kindly wish I could go back to them sometimes," she said. "But then I'd have to go through the bad again along with the good, so maybe not."
This story was posted on 2015-10-13 11:15:58
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