104-year-old preacher gave up driving, golf, but not the pulpit

CLINTON, SC (WIS) - Easter Sunday at First Presbyterian in Clinton is about death and new life. And if you scan the pews, you'll see those who are new at life and those who are not.

For Dr. Joe Gettys, Easter is not only a personal thing, it's a professional thing. The 104-year-old is a Presbyterian minister.

Dr. Gettys taught bible for years at Presbyterian College, eventually becoming the academic dean. He gave up driving a year ago. He gave up golf at 95 because of a pinched nerve.

Next weekend, he's leading Sunday School. And on April 22nd, Gettys celebrates his 105th birthday.

"Joe is still worshipping regularly each week, teaching Sunday School," said Reverend Wain Wesberry. "He loves reaching out to the children, loves greeting them on Sunday mornings."

The rest of the week, the author, who just finished a new piece, runs his ministry out of his apartment in the independent living wing of the Presbyterian Home.

"Oh, he is a great neighbor," said Frances Spencer. "He always plants tomatoes and shares them with people on the hall and he also makes jelly from the grapes outside."

Every morning Gettys makes the rounds at breakfast, reading a Bible verse, leading a blessing. Then he sits down to listen.

"One fella wanted me to pray that he could handle all of his women," said Gettys. "I told him I would pray for his personal relations. That's the best I could do on short notice."

Some of the questions are a bit heavier. He says he and his neighbors are surrounded by death and many of them get discouraged, thinking the best of life is behind them.

"They feel useless, there's nothing for them," said Gettys. "I invite them to think about it as Christians, a new life is ahead and the rejoining of loved ones."

Gettys says he looks forward to that himself. His wife died of Alzheimer's in 2003, a daughter in 2005 and out of 11 siblings, only one other is left. His last surviving sister is 98.

"The Lord left me here for a reason so I try to do something with it," said Gettys.

And on the holiday that defines his career he's giving his take on Easter.

"I'd say it's an opportunity for a fresh start, a new attitude, a new faith, a new kind of living," said Gettys.

Gettys said it's simple: just when you think life is over, it's not.

Copyright 2012 WIS.  All rights reserved.