By Joel Hall
In 1952, while she and her young daughter were inside, Louise Blalock's Greek-revival home -- a prominent Jonesboro landmark since 1840 -- caught on fire. If not for the quick actions of a newly formed volunteer fire department, the historic residence would have burned to the ground.
Over the years, Blalock helped provide the volunteer department with the organizational support it needed to get off the ground, and assisted with several fund-raisers to ensure the group's continued existence.
It was only fitting that on Thursday -- Blalock's 95th birthday -- the community, including former volunteer firefighters, gathered to celebrate her many years, all of which have been spent living in Jonesboro.
Scores of long-term residents, along with city officials, threw Blalock a surprise party at the Firehouse Museum and Community Center. Four generations of Blalocks, some driving from as far away as Pennsylvania, joined in celebrating the life of the city's longest-living, continual resident.
On top of the celebration, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed an official state proclamation, recognizing Blalock for her many years of contributing to the Jonesboro community.
"I had a great time," said Blalock. "I saw people I haven't seen in years," although, "it's getting hard for me to put faces to names."
Willis Swint, whose family has operated Swint's Feed and Garden Supply for 75 years, said the Blalock family has been an integral part of the community for as long as he can remember.
"We moved here in 1933 and they were already here," said Swint. "I've been knowing them ever since we came to Jonesboro."
Sam Blalock, Louise's husband, who passed away in 1992, served for over 40 years between the Clayton County Police and Sheriff's departments. Swint said the Blalocks have long been servants to the community.
"She's been through quite a lot, and I think it's remarkable that she's reached that age," said Swint.
The Johnson-Blalock House, once used as a commissary for Confederate troops and a hospital for Union troops, during General William T. Sherman's march to Savannah, has been in the possession of the Blalock family since 1890. Seven generations of the family have lived in the house, in which Blalock has lived since 1933.
Many things have changed since then, said Blalock. "If people would have told me back then that Jonesboro would have this population, I wouldn't have believed them."
While more people have moved into the area, she lamented the fact that many homes along Main Street have been replaced by law and medical offices.
"I miss the neighbors more than anything else," she said. "Now that they made the [Firehouse] museum, it gives me some place to go."
Blalock's daughter, Ann, said she is continually impressed by her mother's independence and sharpness, even into her old age.
"She still cooks, she reads through more books than I can supply, and she has some of the most beautiful quilts you have ever seen ... not a machine stitch in them," said the younger Blalock. "She does not give up or give in. She has the strongest will or constitution I have ever known."