Suffolk centenarian honored

Published 10:56 pm Thursday, January 24, 2013

In Virginia Beach on Thursday, Cynthia Creede, the organization’s director of transit and wellness, presents a special award to Suffolk centenarian Benjamin Jackson Holland, during Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia’s annual meeting.

Anyone pondering the secret of a long life would do well to ask 100-year-old Benjamin Jackson “BJ” Holland, a Suffolk resident honored by Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia Thursday.

“I was brought up in a Christian home, and I was taught to obey the Bible. And I read the Bible every day,” Holland said, moments after receiving the inaugural, discretionary Inspiration Award during SSSV’s 40th annual general meeting Thursday.

A surviving twin and one of seven children, Holland reached 100 years of age on June 5, 2012, celebrating the occasion with family and friends at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Community Center in Franklin.

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The sprightly senior never misses a day visiting the center, where he likes to converse with friends and build on his dominos skills.

“One of the first things he does when he comes to the center, he pulls out his Bible, and he says a little scripture,” city of Franklin Director of Parks and Recreation Frank Davis said, before Holland received the award at the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Virginia Beach.

“After that, he’s known to play a mean game of dominos.”

Holland attended the annual general meeting with a group of family members, including niece Shirley Holland Bailey.

“He’s such a good man; I can say that first,” Bailey said when asked to comment on her uncle.

“I lost my auntie, so if he didn’t go to the community center, that would put him by himself. It gets him out of the house and keeps his mind active.”

Holland was a farmer most of his life, growing peanuts, cotton and corn, as well as raising livestock.

He now lives on his own — but next door to his niece — cooking and cleaning for himself.

When he was younger, Holland lived in Jersey City for a decade, but he was glad to return to the farm.

“I came home to farming,” he said.

As for dominos, he said he’s been playing for 90 years. “I started when I was a little boy. I got it down pretty good.”

Davis, who introduced Holland to the audience after he was helped onto the stage to receive his award, also told some stories from when the two men used to travel around together as part of a group that visited seniors in their homes.

“We were out one day in Southampton County, in the country,” Davis said. “I managed somehow to get stuck in the mud. Mr. Holland said, ‘Don’t worry Mr. Davis, I’m going to get out and push the van.’”

Another time, Davis was in unfamiliar territory and relying on a GPS device. Holland later asked, “Mr. Davis, tell me where was that woman at, giving you instructions? Was she in the front of the van? Was she in the back of the van?”

Holland said he was “shocked” to receive the Inspiration Award. “It’s a feeling I have never felt before,” he said.