Laurens resident celebrates 107th birthday

Mar 16 Written by  STAFF REPORTS

Venice Oleta Wheeler was the sixth child of Nannie and Jules Wheeler. She was born March 16, 1910 at the family farm in Summerville, Georgia. Today, she is the matriarch of the family and will celebrate her 107th birthday at Martha Franks Retirement Community.  

Venice attended school in Summerville and graduated from Summerville High School in 1929. She is the oldest living graduate of Summerville High School. After graduating high school, she entered State Normal College in Athens, Georgia, which became part of the University of Georgia.

Venice is now the oldest alumni of the University of Georgia. She graduated from college in 1931 and the following fall began her teaching career in the two-room school, which had been established in the Bolling community in Summerville. 

It was while teaching at Bolling that Venice met Lonnie Lee Long, a native of Tanners, Alabama. Lonnie had come to Summerville to accept a job as a laboratory technician for Dr. Hardin, a Summerville dentist. Lonnie had attended the Southern Dental College in Atlanta, but had to drop out because of the great depression. 

Venice and Lonnie married on May 4, 1933 at the Wheeler home. In September of that year, Lonnie returned to Atlanta to continue his studies to become a dentist. Venice remained at home. Lonnie graduated from Atlanta Dental College in 1935 and he and Venice moved to Ware Shoals, South Carolina, where Lonnie opened his first dental practice. 

In 1936, their first child, Nancy Oleta Long, was born. Sunday afternoons for the Longs often meant taking Nancy for a ride through the country side and their trips through Laurens left them impressed with the town. They eventually came to regard it as the perfect place to raise a family. On March 15, 1938, the Longs moved to Laurens, South Carolina. 

Two years after moving to Laurens a second child was born to Venice and Lonnie. He was named Lonnie Lee Long, Jr. Two years later, in 1942, another son was born and was named Wheeler Thomas Long. 

Over the years, Lonnie's dental practice had grown and he had become one of the most successful dentists in the area. By early 1969, "Doc", as he was known to his friends, considered retirement. On February 17, 1969, his heart failed. He passed away in Laurens and was buried there in the Forest Lawn Cemetery.

After Lonnie's death, Venice remained in their home on their farm. This home was located down the road from the current Laurens High School.

Last modified on Thursday, 16 March 2017 10:44