McGhee to observe 102nd birthday Key To Life Is To Let God Stay In Control
By MICHELLE L. VARVIL
Rev. Wiley McGhee of Puxico will celebrate his 102nd birthday this week.
McGhee, the second of six children of Jim and Lillie McGhee, was born Jan. 13, 1913, northwest of Bloomfield. He said he enjoyed the outdoors as a young boy.
"We romped the woods, chased rabbits and swam in the pond," said McGhee. "We taught ourselves to swim in a pond."
He said they just jumped around in the pond until they finally learned how to swim.
It was not all play for the young McGhee though.
"Dad bought an extra team when I was 10," he said. "I started working with him in the field. I started breaking ground and plowing corn."
McGhee's daughter, Anne Smith of Puxico, said she remembers her dad telling her how he could barely see over the plow.
"We took up hay and things like that in the summer," said McGhee. "I didn't do too much of that until I was 12."
He attended grade school at North Antioch before going on to graduate from Bloomfield High School.
McGhee said his first paying job was chopping cotton for a neighbor, where he earned $.75 a day.
His job at Pepperidge Bakery in Bloomfield, where he earned $1 for a 12-hour day, provided the knowledge McGhee would need when he operated his own bakery in Puxico.
Smith said her parents opened a bakery in 1940 and ran it until it burned. Her father then worked in Poplar Bluff for a short time while the bakery was rebuilt.
"He was just out of business until they got it built," she said.
Once the bakery was re-opened, the McGhees ran it until 1958.
McGhee said he has done many odd jobs over the years, but it is his work in the ministry that has been most rewarding.
"I began preaching regularly in 1950," he said. "And every Sunday in 1954."
He attended St. Louis Christian College.
"I didn't graduate from there," said McGhee. "I took some courses there. I was already in my 40s when I did that."
McGhee has preached all over but regularly preached at churches in Anniston, Bernie and Gainesville in addition to the First Christian Church in Puxico. He has always made it his mission to visit the homebound and has ministered to the readers of the Ozark County Times (1964-1978) and the Puxico Press (since 1980) through his weekly devotions.
He met his wife, Pansy (Parmenter) McGhee, at a box supper.
"I bought her box and walked her home and just kept a walking," said McGhee with a chuckle.
The couple dated for three years and were married July 1, 1933. They had three children, Smith and Jim McGhee and Randy McGhee, both of Jefferson City. They have six grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
McGhee has seen a lot in his 102 years.
He said one of the biggest changes he has seen is the use of the automobile in every day life. He bought his first car in 1937. He said young people today cannot understand what life was like before automobiles and televisions.
McGhee got his first computer in 1987, at the age of 74, after wearing out several typewriters.
He lived through The Great Depression and has seen several wars and police actions unfold on the global front.
"I've seen some pretty rough times and some pretty good times," said McGhee, who added that the key is in "not letting life defeat you" and "to let God stay in control."
"He has been a super, super, super good man," said Smith of her father. "He's been a great dad. I think he has been an inspiration to a lot of people."