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Valley native celebrates 100th birthday

LANETT — A member of the Greatest Generation celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday in Lanett. Luther Zachry Heath Jr. was born in Chambers County’s Ridge Grove community on Dec. 10, 1920. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, raised five children and worked until he was 88 years old.

“We want Luther to know we are thinking about him on his special day,” said Lanett Senior Center Manager Tammy Hollis, who brings him a hot meal every Monday through Friday.

Heath worked for Sims Metal Works in Lanett for many years. He started off as a welder, became very good at it, and then had the initiative to become a draftsman.

Heath still lives at home but has lots of friends and family members coming by to say hello and to see how he’s doing.

Luther had been married to Pearl Estes Heath for 67 years when she passed away in 2010. Their children are Julia H. Magourik, Sally H. DeJournette, Luther Heath III, the late Olin Phillip Heath and Sara H. Gore.

Luther’s dad, Luther Sr., was a veteran of World War I. Luther Jr. served for 21 months in the U.S. Army and served in the European Theater of the war for seven months. As a member of the 8th Division, he earned two battle stars, a Combat Infantry badge along with American Theater Service and Good Conduct ribbons. He enlisted at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alabama in July 1944.

In 1940, Heath was in Oregon building telephone lines and fighting forest fires as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The next year he returned home to East Alabama and was trained as a defense plant worker at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn). He learned sheet metal work and in 1941 applied that skill working in shipyards. In addition to being skilled in sheet metal work, Heath was also skilled as a tinsmith and a copper smith. After the war, he relocated to Lanett and went to work for Sims Metal Works, where he became a supervisor in 1948. He retired from the company in December 1987 but returned to a full-time position at Sims three years later. He remained active with Sims until his second retirement at age 88 in May 2009.

Between 2011-13, he participated in Cobb Memorial Archives’ Veterans History Project. The Archives has a video of him being interviewed by Paula Maddox about his service in WW II.