A man, a community, a century
Amos Rutherford has held many different titles in his lifetime – farmer, soldier, mechanic – but on Saturday, he earned a new one: centenarian.
March 15 was Rutherford’s 100th birthday, a warm day made warmer by the presence of friends and family gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Lenoir to celebrate the life of the man they call Pops. And from his days with the Army to his days working at Don Campbell’s Exxon in Lenoir, Amos has had no shortage of friends.
Born in the Lake James/Bridgewater area of Morganton in 1914, Rutherford recalls dirt roads between there and Lenoir, ones he knew well from walking. He walked everywhere back then, Rutherford recalled, saying there weren’t a lot of houses back then, when he was living on a farm hoeing corn every day.
Hard work is the trick, Rutherford said. That, paired with obeying his parents and going to church on Sunday.
“I’ll tell you, I enjoy some days, and some days it’s kind of rough,” Rutherford said.
In July 1942, Rutherford joined the U.S. Army, serving as private first class in the 853rd Port Company. He earned the American Theatre Service Medal, a Victory Medal and a Good Conduct Medal, returning to North Carolina in 1946. Last July, Rutherford was honored by Lenoir’s American Legion Post 231 for his service, and for being perhaps the oldest living World War II veteran in the state.
Today, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-11th, will come to Lenoir to honor Rutherford with the WWII Honorable Service Lapel Button and the WWII Victory Medal for his service.
After returning home from the war, Rutherford worked at Mullis Motor Company in Morganton briefly before starting a career at Don Campbell’s Exxon station, where he would spend 30 years getting to know customers – teachers, nurses, business people, doctors and more.
“I talked to everybody while working on cars,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford also is a father to six and a grandfather to 15.
“He’s been great for our family,” said Ike Perkins, Rutherford’s stepson, though that distinction hardly matters.
“This celebration is of course a milestone,” Perkins said. “And what we’ll do after this is continue to celebrate.”