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Unicoi native hits 100th birthday

Brad Hicks • Jul 3, 2014 at 9:22 PM

ERWIN — Today, millions of Americans will attend picnics, fireworks displays and cookouts to celebrate the nation’s 238th birthday.

For the past century, the Fourth of July — the date in which the U.S. declared its independence from Great Britain — has also marked a special day for Unicoi County native Audie Rice.

Rice was born in Flag Pond on July 4, 1914. There, she grew up on a farm with six siblings — three brothers and three sisters. The centenarian said growing up in the mountains did lend itself to the types of Independence Day celebrations many now take part in.

“We didn’t have many fireworks back then up there where I lived with my brothers and sisters,” Rice said. “We usually was home, just the family had a good time together.”

Rice also said birthday parties were not the norm for her and her brothers and sisters.

“As we growed up, times was hard,” she said. “Us children helped dad farm.”

But the lack of big birthday bashes has changed for Rice in more recent years. Today, she will celebrate her 100th birthday with members of her family who still reside in the local area. An even bigger celebration will take place Saturday, as more members of Rice’s family are expected to travel from out of state to mark her special day.

“I’m expecting all my family here,” Rice said. “Hopefully they can all come be here.”

And, perhaps appropriately, there will be three days of celebration for Rice in the coming days as she reaches triple digits. For the past 12 years, Rice has been a resident of the Long Term Care facility at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. The staff there sets aside a day each month to celebrate the birthdays of residents who have a birthday that particular month. This month’s celebration is set to take place July 18.

Rice offered a simple response when asked if she felt it was special to her that most across the country celebrate the nation’s birthday as her friends and family join her to celebrate her own.

“Sure it is,” she said.

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