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Still going strong. Dr. Joe Gettys receives 108th birthday greetings Thursday at Clinton Presbyterian Community as well wishers and family dropped by for a brief program and lunch.Former Presbyterian College Bible and religion professor, 1956-74, Gettys served as PC’s Academic Dean, 1962-69, and has taught at Queens College, Presbyterian School of Christian Education and Erskine Theological Seminary. – Photo by Vic MacDonald

Christian scholar, author and Order of the Palmetto recipient Dr. Joe Gettys didn’t need outside validation for his 108th birthday. He was right where he wanted to be Thursday – among well-wishers,
family and the fellow residents of the Clinton Presbyterian Community for a birthday lunch.

Gettys is the first Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina resident to reach age 108, a group gathered in the Clinton retirement community’s dining room was told. He shook hands, hugged and talked with well-wishers after a brief program in the foyer and then coming through the dining room’s lunch serving line.

Family and others gathered with Gettys in a small dining room to talk and eat together.

“You have a lot of family and friends here,” Clinton Presbyterian Community Director Brandon Hair said to Gettys. “Many people from PC, some from our home office and many others. I want to thank Dr. Joe for the friendship he has shown me during my three years here.”

Slowed down a little by having to get around in a motorized chair,Gettys still nimbly took a turn around the table in the private dining room to talk to those with whom he ate lunch. He navigated around the tables in the large dining room and talked to many of his fellow Presbyterian Community residents. He used to handle the Happy Birthday singing for all the residents, but on Thursday, for his 108th birthday, Gettys has Bill Pace and Hannah Taylor to lead his well wishers in singing.

Taylor also sang a “108 Candles” rendition for Gettys as wellwishers stood around them in a circle in the foyer. A Presbyterian College voice student, Taylor has become the “adopted granddaughter” for many residents at Clinton Presbyterian Community.

In addition to lunch, there was cake for everyone compliments of the Gettys family.

With the help of family and friends, Gettys attended all PC home football and basketball games this past season.

He was set to go Thursday night to the William Plummer Jacobs Society annual spring dinner at the PC campus, conveniently scheduled this spring on his birthday.

Hey, that’s my job. Dr. Joe Gettys, seated center, was the long-time Happy Birthday singer for residents at Clinton Presbyterian Community. On Thursday, the task of leading the song for Getty’s 108th birthday celebration falls to Bill Pace and Hannah Taylor, PC voice student. – Photo by Vic MacDonald

Dr. Gettys has long and deeproots in Presbyterian College. He was Bible and religion professor at PC from 1956 to 1974, and found time during that tenure (1962-69) to serve as Academic Dean.

In a narrative he typed himself on a computer, Gettys recalls a time in 1963 he and others helped PC avert academic probation by recruiting professors with the Bailey Foundation’s assistance.

Gettys writes, “The (accreditation committee) chairman said: ‘You still don’t measure up fully on requirements, but you are moving so rapidly on meeting them that we have decided to recommend full accreditation at the December meeting.’ We thanked them and the good Lord for their vote of confidence. … We went fully co-ed in 1965. In the five years that remained I had brought together a strong faculty in all departments and returned to the classroom.”

Gettys also taught at Queens College, Charlotte, Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, Va., and (two years after retirement from PC) Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West.

His resume includes authorship of 11 Biblical study guides and eight other books, some of which are biographical.

His work with Presbyterian churches included three years at Sound View in The Bronx, New York, four years as minister of education at First Presbyterian in Dallas, and five years as part-time stated supply at Shady Grove, Clinton. He served interim pastorates in 37 churches in Virginia, Texas and South Carolina – seven churches had him back twice.

In his remembrance as a church-builder, Gettys writes, “I was visiting a man who was not active in First Presbyterian Church and he said, ‘You can’t develop a church. You don’t even have a building.’ Before I left he got his checkbook and wrote a check for $50 toward a building.

Article by The Clinton Observer, April 29, 2015