Martha Leach is an institution in her town. The Holly Springs, North Carolina, woman has seen a lot of change in her lifetime, and knows the town better than anyone.
With a calm, cool, knowing demeanor, she can often be seen sitting out on her front porch as she passes the time. She’s revered by her townsfolk, and they wanted to make her birthday special.
Leach was set to celebrate her 103rd birthday in July.
Leach was born in 1915 in Wagram, North Carolina, and moved to Holly Springs in 1948. She spent the next 70 years in the town of just under 25,000 people.
“I’ve been knowing Miss Martha ever since I was about, what, 5 or 6 years old, and I’m old now,” Leach’s longtime friend Margaret Prince told WNCN.
Leach never had children of her own, but those who live in the town view her as a mother figure nonetheless. A pillar in her community, they didn’t want her birthday to come and go without any fanfare.
Last year, firefighters visited Leach in her home. They’d made plans to throw her a parade, which ultimately fell through.
They were determined to avoid a repeat this year.
This year the town of Holly Springs threw Leach a parade.
Though Leach’s birthday is technically in July, the town went through with the parade in June. Neighbors made signs and cheered as the centenarian rode through the streets in a fire engine.
Adam Godfrey, the firefighter who drove Leach around town, said he considered the appointment an honor.
“I feel like someone at that age has life figured out, and I want to know the secret,” Godfrey told WNCN. “She said live a stress-free life, and enjoy your home and family. Always be loved by someone.”
Throughout their ride, Godfrey explained some of the features of the engine and talked to Leach about her life.
The town made sure Leach knew she was appreciated.
“You see all of this? This is just special for you, Miss Martha,” Prince said from the backseat of the fire engine.
It was an early birthday present worth savoring, and once the festivities were concluded, Leach said she intended to spend the rest of the day “sitting and looking.”
“It’s the good Lord’s plan for me to be here,” Leach told WNCN.
Her townspeople agreed, and everyone seemed to savor the opportunity to give Leach a birthday bash worthy of her years.
“God’s on her side. That’s why. If it weren’t for Him, she might not be here, but He is on her side,” Prince said.