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Ashland's oldest resident turns 104: 'She is a special lady'

Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 21:09:06-04

ASHLAND, Va. -- An Ashland woman celebrated her 104th birthday on Wednesday.

Helen Gilliam was greeted by a crowd of well-wishers and serenaded by students from Gandy Elementary School.

"This is truly a beautiful day," Helen's granddaughter Tina Wilson.

The town's oldest living resident has left a mark on the hearts of everyone she's ever met, Wilson said.

She has a great love of family, friends, and church. She is known by many for her craftiness, making clothes like her daughter's wedding dress and specialty dolls for family and friends.

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"She's feisty and she still has her wits about her," Wilson said. "Glad to still have my grandmother here."

And so are neighbors who started out planning a drive-by birthday celebration.

Those plans quickly morphed as more people wanted to get involved.

"The family said they wanted birthday cards, something that would be safe," neighbor Sue Watson said. "People just got really excited about an opportunity to wish a neighbor a happy birthday. They were calling and saying, what else can we do?"

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Neighbors like Emily Le led the way and employees from the Hanover School Board office next door also jumped in.

"It's a wonderful day for her. To live to be 104 and her neighbor lived to be 108," Lee said. "It's real special, I love her. She is a sweetheart."

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Gilliam Family

Serenaded by students, presented with a cake and flowers, Gilliam also got a call from the governor and even a yummy surprise of 104 chicken nuggets sent over by Chick-fil-A.

Her family called it a blessed day.

"I'm just overly excited that people thought that much of her to come out," Wilson said. "She is a special lady to the community and I just applaud you all very much for doing this for her."