Community's oldest bids his final goodbye

Claude Ogle is gone, two days after turning 104

Posted 2/26/19

Claude Ogle, confirmed as Bradley County's oldest person by the Bradley County Genealogical Association, passed away Sunday, just two days after reaching his 104th birthday last Friday.His son, Ken …

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Community's oldest bids his final goodbye

Claude Ogle is gone, two days after turning 104


Claude Ogle, confirmed as Bradley County's oldest person by the Bradley County Genealogical Association, passed away Sunday, just two days after reaching his 104th birthday last Friday.

His son, Ken Ogle, exclaimed Monday that in reality it was a wonderful gift to be able hold on until his birthday, and "also to be going to heaven on a Sunday."

After reaching his 100th birthday in 2016 with a gala Sunday reception at his longtime church, South Cleveland COG, Ogle had become a community celebrity.

He became a resident at Life Care of Cleveland at that time, and was honored by the elder-care corporation by being named "Mr. Life Care." There were also several big family birthday parties over the past three years.

Among the invited guests a year ago were then Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and then Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson.

Rowland gave Ogle a key to the city, and Watson made Ogle an honorary  BCSO captain, with a jacket and a badge. (Watson made Ogle an honorary deputy three years earlier, on his 100th birthday.)

Also honoring Ogle last year were Lee University's a cappella group, Voices of Lee, under Director Danny Murray.

Ogle was a  Bradley County native, of one of nine children of Kimsey and Bertie (Atchley) Ogle. He was preceded in death by his wife, Eva Viola (Mullinax) Ogle; sisters, Jessie, Maude, Ruth, Madge and Edna; and brothers, Otis, Clyde and Coy.

Ogle outlived 20 of his 32 nieces and nephews.

The Cleveland centenarian leaves two sons, Claude Jr., and his wife, Nancy (Davis) Ogle; and Ken and his wife, Sheila (Harper) Ogle; and grandson Kyle. 

Ogle was always the featured attraction at yearly family reunions with his many stories, songs, memories and jokes.

Life Care President Beecher Hunter jokingly called it "quite an inspiration" that Ogle always laughed at his own jokes.

He had received a number of honors since he reached the age of 100, including continued recognition from Rowland and longtime Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis. Then Gov. Bill Haslam came to Cleveland for a visit with Ogle.

Ogle was presented an honorary BCHS diploma at a Bradley basketball game, with his family in attendance. He was fond of telling the story of how he attended Black Fox School for one year, then went five years to the old Templeton Hill School.

"I graduated after the sixth grade," he would quip, and  the BCHS diploma was a prized possessions.

"It was one of the highlights of his life," said Ken.

At the big party at his residence last year, Chattanooga TV personality David Carroll informed Ogle he had met a 107-year-old woman in a neighboring  county, and she, like Claude, remained very sharp. Carroll told Ogle that when he suggested they meet each other, she responded, "I don't date younger men!"

Ogle was honored with the title Mr. Life Care in 2016. He was featured with a large, color photo on the cover of of the corporation's magazine, while CEO and founder Forrest Preston was relegated to a smaller photo on Page 2. 

During Ogle's early adult years, he worked for the Jackson Chair factory in Cleveland and Chattanooga, and later was employed at Cleveland's Dixie Foundry.

He concluded his career with 36 years of service at the Church of God Publishing House, where he advanced from being the janitor  to being a folder for the trademark publication, The Red Back Hymnal.

He then worked part time for the publishing company after retiring in 1982.

Ogle is probably best known for his love of music and storytelling. He continued to entertain fellow residents with song and jokes, after his move to Life Care at age 100. He lived in North Cleveland Towers by himself after the death of his wife, until he suffered a bad fall just after his 100th birthday. This was when he moved to the facility.

Asked in an earlier interview if he had any girlfriends at Life Care, he quipped, "Eight or nine!"

He was a self-taught musician, and could play multiple instruments, including the piano, organ, accordion, guitar, banjo, mandelin, bass fiddle, and bass guitar. His playing ability was limited in recent years, due to age and a lack of dexterity in his fingers and hands. This, of course, failed to limit his singing, storytelling and jokes.

Ogle had been a member of South Cleveland Church of God for around 80 years. He joined in his 20s, under the "direction" of his late wife, who was a charter member of the church. He served as Sunday school superintendent for several years.

He became well known for driving himself to Hardee's each morning. He repeatedly claimed the reason for his longevity was the fast food chain's biscuits and gravy. He also drove to Wendy's in the afternoon for a burger and a Frosty.

Some of his stories are legendary. A favorite was about when he went to a restaurant one afternoon, and when he left, he pulled out in front of a Cleveland police cruiser. The officer followed in his patrol car, and eventually pulled Ogle over.

"The young officer asked me if I had taken something, and I told him I'd just had a Frosty at Wendy's," Ogle related.  The officer called for emergency medical assistance. Medical personnel checked the 100-year-old out before he was allowed to continue home.

"I received a physical, and should have gotten a ticket!" Ogle quipped.

Ogle's family wanted to thank church member Jeri Smith, whom Ogle claimed as an "adopted niece." She visited him almost every day at his residence, and assisted with his care.

Such was the life of Claude Ogle. He spent immeasurable time bringing fun, laughs and enjoyment to his family, and uncountable friends and acquaintances.

Family members, and loved ones, say he will be a tremendous addition in his heavenly home, and his "homegoing" is his greatest-ever birthday celebration.


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