CORRYTON, Tenn. — A World War Two Veteran and Knox County native is leaping into his second century.
Clayton Sharp turned 100 years old on Wednesday, January 12th surrounded by family and friends.
They gathered to sing him a song he's heard 100 times before... Happy Birthday!
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Clayton said to them all.
Clayton sat in a comfy chair, a picture of his 1940 high school graduating class on his left, and a picture of him in his military uniform on the right.
After high school, Clayton was drafted into WWII. He was in the Pacific Theatre. He said the hardest part was learning to be a soldier.
"That was the most difficult to me," Clayton said.
After serving, he joined the Coast Guard. Those two acts of service were the first of many for Clayton Sharp.
"I just tried to live a good life and make it count," Clayton said.
Clayton said he's a simple man.
"I try to be happy wherever I am," Clayton said.
But, he's just being humble. Clayton's positive attitude is radiant, it is the essence of what makes him the opposite of simple.
Jane Wright, a family-member in-law to Clayton explained it best.
"Clayton's gift, is that he always is positive. He always builds you up," Wright said. "When you walk away from Clayton, you feel better, you feel like you've been just helped in some way, even when you didn't even know you needed it."
That seemed to be the consensus among dozens of people who showed up to Clayton's 100th birthday party on Sunday afternoon.
"He is the sweetest man. He is so appreciative," one guest said.
"I have known Clayton for years, and he's involved in everything around here," said another.
Clayton was involved in everything. He did volunteer work with the Gibbs Ruritan Club, local hospitals, Clapps Chapel United Methodist Church, and even served as the first-ever Scout Master for the Clapps Chapel troop (which still operates today).
“There really wasn't a community event that occurred that he wasn't a part of. So his name just grew and grew and grew. Now, everyone knows him. Everyone knows him, and everyone loves him,” Wright said.
The birthday party persisted through the winter weather conditions. Some people even came from hours away.
“I think it's pretty incredible that he's, he's lived to be 100,” said Clayton’s son, Rancy Sharp.
Rancy traveled 11 hours from Arkansas to be with his father on his 100th birthday. Rancy said the drive was worth every second.
“He is always gracious to people, always thanking people for whatever they did for him. Just an incredible person that… I always wanted to be like him," Rancy said.
Rancy said his father has been one of the biggest influences on his life.
"He genuinely cares about people. Even if they do the littlest thing, he thanks them for it," Rancy said. "I feel I genuinely care about people. Probably not as much as he does. But I try to care about about people. I think I learned that from him."
Even at 100 years old, Clayton is still practicing that thanksgiving.
"To everyone who came today, thanks be to you. I'm grateful for your fellowship, your love, and kindness throughout the years," Clayton said.
A century worth of thank-you's.
"I think it's his character and who he is that's allowed for his lifetime legacy," Wright said.
It's proven that gratitude and love are the secrets to Clayton's long life.