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Grandmother with 88 great-grandchildren celebrates 100th birthday with drive-thru party

Julia Lee Kelley is the matriarch of a large South Carolina family – 173 descendants in total. Kelley has five children, 30 grandkids, 88 great-grandkids, 49 great-great-grandkids and one great-great-great-grandkid, according to one of her great-granddaughters, Kelley Oakley.

With all that family, it's no surprise so many people showed up for Kelley's 100th birthday party on August 8. Oakley said her family originally planned to have the party at a venue, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, they had to move the festivities outside.

That allowed for more people to join the celebration. Kelley's family set up a tent, decorated with balloons and allowed cars full of family, friends, church members and old coworkers to drive by. "I didn't count, it was a lot though," Oakley said. "We stayed out there for a long time." 

For the drive-thru party, Kelley wore a sash, tiara and custom T-shirt that celebrated her milestone birthday. 

The celebration wasn't a surprise, but Oakley said Kelley was still shocked "to see how many people loved her." 

"And I think she was surprised by how much money she got," Oakley said. 

Julia Lee Kelley's birthday celebration wasn't a surprise, but her great-granddaughter said she was still shocked "to see how many people loved her."  Kelley Oakley

Oakley said the whole brood is very family-oriented. "We are very close," Oakley said. "We still get together sometimes, have dinner. Or just get together and not do anything, just to see each other."

The large family means many visitors for Kelley. "Grandma, everybody always checks on her because she really doesn't go anywhere except maybe to get her hair fixed or go to the doctor," Oakley said.

But Oakley said her great-grandmother is very active. 

"She still loves to grow her flowers outside, cook, bake her cakes from scratch. She still cleans. She still does everything, except drive."   

"She's a healthy little ox," Oakley said. 

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