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Longtime educator celebrates 100th birthday

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series about the life of a highly respected educator from Jefferson County, who now makes her home in Thomson. Walton Brown Freeman celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends Friday. Next week, we will take a closer look at her life and talk with several of her relatives.

A century ago, a girl named Walton Brown was born in Milledgeville, Ga.

That same girl grew into a beautiful woman and became a schoolteacher. Her role as an educator spanned nearly 50 years in the neighboring Jefferson County town of Wrens. When she married Thomas Freeman in the mid- 1950s, she took on the name Walton Brown Freeman.

On Friday, the well-known Mrs. Freeman, now retired for many years, celebrated another big milestone in her life as she turned 100 years old.

"She is a wonderful lady," said Shawn Stapleton, the owner of Thomson Funeral System, where Mrs. Freeman lives upstairs in a residential section.

"We're so glad that she's lived this long. She has experienced a lot of things in our country. We all love her."

Mrs. Freeman refers to Mr. Stapleton as her godson.

In return, he and his family, including his brother Stanley, think of Mrs. Freeman as their second mother.

"I don't think there are enough good things we could ever say about Mrs. Freeman," Stanley Stapleton said. "She's a kind and very loving lady."

Family members purchased a birthday cake to commemorate the occasion.

Mrs. Freeman, who is mostly confined to bed these days, smiled as the candle-lighted cake was shown her.

A host of relatives gathered around her bedside and snapped photographs with small cameras and cell phones.

Born just a few days before Christmas in 1910, Mrs. Freeman knew from an early age what she wanted to do in her life. It was to teach school.

"I liked teaching students," Mrs. Freeman said during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "I taught a lot of students."

Although she doesn't know exactly how many she taught during an education career that lasted 48 years, she's certain it was in the thousands. She taught sixth-graders.

Mrs. Freeman was one of the first four teachers at Wrens Colored Elementary School. The old school building was torn down many years ago to make room for a strip shopping center. The school sat right across Georgia Highway 17, where her late husband, Thomas Freeman, owned and operated Freeman Funeral Home for 60 years.

Today Mr. Stapleton owns that funeral home, too.

Asked about one of her favorite Christmases, Mrs. Freeman quickly replied and with a laugh, "All of them."

Web posted on Thursday, December 23, 2010

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