Chattanooga's first baby of 1917 to turn 100 on New Year's Day
Blanche Pilcher was born at 12:01 and ½ on Jan. 1, 1917, making her the first baby of the year in Chattanooga.
At 12:01 on Jan. 1, 2017, she will mark her 100th year of life.
Pilcher’s was a home birth, and the house at 3100 13th Ave. is still standing. She was born to William and Rowena Gregory, a barbershop owner and housewife.
The family moved to 1603 18th St. early in Pilcher’s life and had a secondary house on Greens Lake Road, where her father liked to fish and which is now Lake Winnepesaukah.
Pilcher remembers her father working a lot to support the family, which included two sisters and one brother.
“I remember wanting a pair of red and black button-up shoes for Christmas when I was 4 years old,” Pilcher shared. “Santa left them under our Christmas tree.”
Pilcher attended Hemlock Elementary for first through sixth grades, then Eastlake Junior High for grades seven through nine.
Pilcher’s mother was part of the Knox family in Knoxville, for which the town was named. Every summer, the family would drive to Knoxville, crossing the Tennessee River in Chattanooga by ferry and driving in their Model-T Ford on dirt roads the rest of the way.
“We usually stayed about two months every year,” Pilcher said. “Mother sewed clothes for her family members while we were there.”
Sadly, Pilcher lost her mother when she was only 11.
When she was about 15, the family’s house on 18th St. burned to the ground. It was rebuilt as a duplex.
In 1934, Pilcher graduated from Central High School on Dodds Avenue, and she graduated from Wiley’s Business College in 1935. She went to work at Signal Knitting that year.
On Jan. 6, 1936, Pilcher married James McClure, an engineer at Combustion Engineering. In October of that year, they welcomed a son, Frank. They welcomed their daughter, Joella, in February 1939.
McClure retired at age 62. Pilcher worked until she was 60, but then went back to work at the S & H Green Stamp Store on Brainerd Road. The couple also enjoyed traveling in their golden years.
“We had a travel trailer set up in Frostproof, Florida, where we spent winter months because of my husband’s health problems,” Pilcher said. “We took two trips to Hawaii and one cruise to Alaska before he died at age 67.”
Pilcher was to find love again in Florida.
“I met my second husband, James M. Pilcher, in Frostproof,” she said. “He was kin to friends of mine from Tunnel Hill, Georgia. He had a home in Tampa, Florida. We had our first date at McDonald’s. I moved to Tampa after we were married.”
The two enjoyed 25 years together before James passed away at age 95. “The family suggested I move back to Chattanooga because of age and health,” Pilcher explained.
Pilcher moved in to Garden Plaza of Greenbriar Cove, an independent living community in Ooltewah, where she remains active and is close to her family.
The community will serve her favorite meal for brunch on her birthday and will host a party at 2 p.m.