Elizabethton comes together to celebrate local veteran’s 100th birthday

A few days before her actual birthday, Florence “Helen” Shoopman Fetzer celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday, December 30, at the Sycamore Springs Assisted Living Center. Hundreds of well-wishers joined her for the celebration, filling the narrow hallways of the assisted living center and filling the building with celebratory noises and shouts.

Fetzer served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during WWII and was involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

Several government officials either attended the celebration in person or sent letters congratulating her on her achievements.

Carter County Mayor Russell Barnett called Fetzer a pioneer and a trailblazer.

“She got to do what no other woman had ever done before as a WAC in 1943,” Barnett said in is proclamation.

After serving until 1945, Fetzer went back to get her education, earning a teaching certificate from Carson-Newman College, followed by a Bachelor’s Degree in teaching at the University of Tennessee, and then she earned her Master’s in education from East Tennessee State College in 1953.

Her family members said Fetzer still has the copy of her poll tax she paid before women were legally allowed to vote in the U.S.

“I am so glad to see every one of you here,” Fetzer said. “It is hard to believe this many people showed up on such a pretty day outside.”

State Representative Phil Roe sent a letter of congratulations on her achievements, as well.

“The commitment to your community as an educator for 34 years could not be more appreciated,” Roe said in his letter. “As a veteran myself, I want to also thank you for your service as a member of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.”

Fetzer said she knew many people would be asking her what she attributed her longevity to, but, with a smile on her face, she said she did not really know the answer to that question.

“I did not want to be an old woman,” she said. “I never said I wanted to be 100.”

She said she did not regret her long life, however, saying she met some great people during her life.

“I saw FDR a few times,” she said. “I saw Eisenhower before he was president.”

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