KINGSPORT – Ask Durward Setser Drinnon about the key to a long, healthy life and his answer is simple.
“Good, clean livin’,” said Kingsport's newest centenarian, who celebrated his 100-year milestone on Friday, Aug. 16.
A lifelong resident of Tennessee, Drinnon was joined by family, friends and community members at a party held in his honor at Wellmont Madison House, the region’s only healthcare-affiliated assisted living residence, adult day care center and short-term overnight care program. Drinnon lives at Madison House.
After graduation from Hancock County High School at age 17, Drinnon married his high school sweetheart, Nina Lawson Drinnon. The couple's first home was a log cabin in Hancock County, where he drove a gravel truck.
They later moved to Kingsport, where he worked first at Holston Defense Corp., then at Dobyns-Taylor Hardware Company Inc. The couple remained happily married for 69 years until Mrs. Drinnon died in 2008.
“His wife was the love of his life,” said Tanya McClellan, Madison House’s office coordinator. “He tells the sweetest stories about her. His stories just make you feel so good.”
Judy Sanders, Drinnon’s niece, said friends and family were always welcome in the couple's home.
“Durward and Nina's house was always the gathering place for family members,” said Sanders. “They were both very hospitable.”
Among his closest friends were his fellow congregation members. Drinnon was a longtime member of Kingsport's Fort Robinson Baptist Church, and religion and music have always played a central role in Drinnon's life, family and friends said.
“Durward loves to sing and hum gospel songs all day long,” said Sammie Jo Williams, Madison House’s activities director. “He absolutely loves the musical entertainment we have come into our facility.
“He is such a joy to have here at Madison House. We are really excited to have celebrated his 100th birthday with him.”
So how has he stayed so active for so long? Drinnon attributes his health to finding fun activities. An avid fisherman and hunter, he has always enjoyed the great outdoors, including gardening at his home and caring for his horses. Now that he resides at Madison House, he still enjoys fishing trips and visits from pet therapy dogs, which frequent the facility every month.
“You have to find things that make you happy,” Drinnon said. “And surround yourself with good people. My friends and family have been very good to me.”