McKenney to celebrate 100th birthday on Nov. 20

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By Shannon Brock

The first 100 years are the hardest — at least that’s what Edgar McKenney says, and he would know.


Born Nov. 20, 1909, McKenney will reach the century mark on Friday.

The real celebration, however, will be Sunday, Nov. 22 at the Lawrenceburg United Methodist Church from 1 to 3 p.m. Family and friends are invited to attend the birthday party.

McKenney, who had two brothers and five sisters, was born in Harrison County. Two of his sisters are still living and reside in Lexington, he said.

Asked how he ended up in Lawrenceburg, McKenney simply responds, “Well, there was a gal from Lawrenceburg.”

That gal was Edna Mae Overstreet, a 1929 graduate of Kavanaugh High School, to whom McKenney was married for 63 years.

The couple met while the future Mrs. McKenney was attending the Good Samaritan School of Nursing.

McKenney began working as a telegrapher for Southern Railroad as a young man. He worked over 40 years with Southern, which is now Norfolk Southern, and was promoted to passenger agent. His job with the railroad took his family to Chattanooga, Tenn., Wilmore, Somerset, Lexington and Evansville, Ind.

The McKenneys had two children, Shelby and Ed Jr., who were both born in Anderson County.

McKenney retired from the railroad on Jan. 1, 1970, and his family set up a permanent home in Lawrenceburg that year.

“I’ve been here ever since,” he said. “It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place.”

Mrs. McKenney, who remained a registered nurse until her death, died in 1997. His daughter passed away in 2001, and his son currently lives in Texas.

To say that things have changed in the last 100 years would be an understatement, McKenney said.

“Everything has changed really,” he said. “But with an interest in the railroad, you wouldn’t believe the changes in that.”

McKenney is amazed that trains are run through centralized traffic control and that steam engines can pull so many cars, he said.

As a former telegrapher, McKenney is especially interested in the way communications have changed.

“You had telegraphy, then telephones and walkie talkies, as we used to call them, and now you’ve got computers,” he said.

McKenney has fully embraced the change in communication, e-mailing family members jokes and pictures on a daily basis.

He took a basic computer class at the age of 87.

“You didn’t used to expect things to change like you do now,” he said. “With computers, there’s always something bigger and better.”

Between his years with the railroad and learning how to use the Internet, McKenney spent 25 years doing watch and clock repairs in Lawrenceburg.

He collected pocket watches and decided to take a course in watch making, earning a master certificate in the trade.

“It was a lot of fun, and I got a lot of satisfaction out of doing that,” he said.

In his younger days, McKenney was also a member of a pistol club. He climbed up the ranks as a marksman, sharpshooter and expert.

He also served a term on the Wilmore city council.

The secret to a long life is really pretty simple, McKenney said.

“It’s doing exactly what the doctor tells you to do,” he said.

In 1957, a doctor provided McKenney with a list of things he should and should not eat. McKenney still has a copy of that list.

He also believes in exercise.

“People used to call me ‘the man who walks all the time’ because that’s what I did,” he said. “I walked all the time, whether it was raining or the sun was shining.

“I just followed the doctor’s orders.”

McKenney said he has achieved all the goals he set out to achieve, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a few regrets.

“There are things I wish I could do over — I think we all have those,” he said. “But I’ve trotted along pretty well. The good Lord has blessed me very much.”

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.