A Sweetwater resident celebrated her 96th birthday by recounting the events that led her to the area.
Zola Jones was born in Union County and moved to Monroe County with her family after their land was sold to build the Norris Dam.
“We had to find a new home,” said Jones. “So a real estate man down here, Albert McCosh, went up to where we were and started bringing people down here.”
She was 12 years old when she and her family arrived in Monroe County.
“We were known for years as the dam people,” said Jones. “There were so many families, so many that we filled the schools and churches.”
She and her family reached into the community to befriend those in the area.
“We began to make friends with the people and learn the people here,” said Jones. “A friend of mine, that I had met the first day I went to church, has a five day difference in our age and every year we have gotten together and spoke on the telephone.”
One of her fondest memories was obtaining power for her home.
“We lived out on Vonore Road when they first started to run electricity from town,” said Jones. “I thought they would never get out to our house, it took forever, and once we got it I couldn’t wait for night to come so we could turn on the lights.”
Another great memory for her was viewing two solar eclipses.
“The first one was the big one,” said Jones. “It was at 12 o’clock in the day and it got really dark. It was so dark the cows came in to be milked.”
According to Jones, the latest eclipse in the area didn’t compare to the one she experienced when she was younger.
She has also volunteered to help start up several local businesses over the years.
She helped establish the Sweetwater Hospital gift shop where she worked for 10 years and the Sweetwater Area Ministries, among others.
She has acquired many hobbies over the years, including painting and crafting.
“Getting into ceramics led me into wanting to do other paintings,” said Jones. “So I learned to do water coloring, pencil shading, and pin and ink. I love this and I would give anything if I could just sit here and do this now.”
In recent years, she has won a battle with a disease that threatened to take her life.
“I had Leukemia when I was 86 years old,” said Jones. “They told me then that I had two days to live.”
She found a doctor who was willing to give her treatment in an attempt to save her life.
“He said that treatment will be hard,” said Jones. “So I said let’s go for it.”
During her treatments, the doctor attempted to put her mind at ease by speaking with her about her faith.
“He asked me if I was a Christian and I told him yes,” said Jones. “So he started talking to me about Joseph and Mary.”
She had another “sick spell” fall upon her around six months ago when she was sent to University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville with severe bleeding.
“She coded on us as soon as I got her in the emergency room,” said Debbie Beckman, who was with her at the time. “She was gone for about four minutes and then she came back on her own.”
Jones said she believes she returned from her coded state because she still has things to do.
“I saw the tree of life, I saw Jesus leaving into the heavens with his arms open,” said Jones. “On the other side I was standing at the river of life, it was pretty and green ... I saw a thousand trees and they were the kind that bore different fruit each month. I’m not sure how I knew but I did.”
She says she was brought back to be a good witness.
“I made it back because God still has something for me to do,” said Jones.
“Heaven is real and I have to tell people about it.”