Sue Whiddon has spent nearly half of her life as a teacher. That's no small accomplishment for a woman who is 103 years old.
The longtime Harlem resident spent 35 years teaching at Harlem High School. She also has taught classes in south Georgia, Richmond County and Fort Gordon.
Former students and members of Harlem Baptist Church, where Whiddon teaches Sunday school, have banded together to honor her.
"There's so much to be learned from her life, that I think other people need to know about," said E.G. Meybohm, a former student and organizer of the event. "She's just been a real inspiration, I think. One of the best teachers ever."
Sue Whiddon Day, a drop-in celebration, will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 22 at Harlem Baptist's Family Life Center.
"It is just to celebrate and honor her for all the years of service she's given to people in this area," said Joe Jolley, an event organizer. "She's just an outstanding lady."
Jolley said anyone who is a friend of Whiddon, a former student, or feels she has improved their life is invited to attend. A ceremony starts at 4 p.m. and will include a few surprises and surprise guests, he said.
Whiddon's son, Butch, said he appreciates the group honoring his mother, but said he had the difficult task of telling her about the reception and getting her to agree to it. She wasn't initially receptive to the idea, he said.
"If I had known about it when it started, I suspect I'd have tried to stop it," said Whiddon. "I don't deserve all of what they are doing."
Whiddon started teaching in her hometown of Forsyth, Ga., as a teen. She taught high school students in Monroe County, Yatesville, Orchard Hill and Sandersville, Ga., before moving to Harlem with her husband, Rep. Eason Whiddon, in 1935.
By 1937, Whiddon was teaching at Harlem High School, where thousands of students passed through her classroom until she left the Columbia County school system in 1972.
"I loved it (teaching in Columbia County)," Whiddon said. "Mr. (John Pierce) Blanchard loved me. He was just a wonderful person. ... I just loved (teaching)."
Even though he loved and respected Whiddon, Meybohm said she could be a difficult instructor.
"She was a tough teacher, but fair," Meybohm said. "She was very dedicated to anything that she did. She wanted it done right, somewhat of a perfectionist."
Whiddon said she often encounters former students and enjoys hearing the success stories of those she helped mold and lead.
"I produced some good children," Whiddon said. "I'm so proud of them. ... A student changes, more than I change, because they have matured. ... Now I'm teaching them in Sunday school. They have become adults."
After two years of teaching at the Academy of Richmond County, Whiddon retired in 1975. But that doesn't mean she stopped teaching.
In addition to the Sunday school class named for her at Harlem Baptist, Whiddon also served as a test proctor for the Department of Education on Fort Gordon, where she prepared soldiers to take their General Educational Development exam.
"The soldiers who were not high school graduates, I taught them and tested them to be able to get a GED," Whiddon said.
Whiddon is a charter member and former president of the Harlem Woman's Club and Pioneer Garden Club, secretary of the Harlem Memorial Cemetery Board and was director of the county Red Cross during the 1960s.
With her 104th birthday approaching on Dec. 14, Whiddon still lives alone, drives herself and plays bridge two or three times a week.
Whiddon has lived a life dedicated to serving others, but she's not through yet.
"The Lord has blessed me, because sometimes I wonder why I'm here so long," Whiddon said.
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