Even COVID-19 couldn’t stop friends and family from helping a local woman celebrate a very special birthday.

Louella Pyle celebrated her 103rd birthday with a special birthday parade this past week, with scores of well-wishers taking part – at social distance.

“I don’t know what to expect,” said Pyle before taking her seat under a tent outside of the house she has lived in since 1949. “I appreciate it. Things are really different.”

With Pyle to celebrate the special occasion were three generations of Pyles ranging from her daughter Suzanne Enzfelder and husband, David, to her great-grandchildren. Some family members even traveled from Florida to be with her.

Pyle’s feelings about having her family with her was summed up concisely: wonderful.

Along with family was her neighbor and friend Sue Pamplin, who came up with the idea for the birthday parade and helped organize it. She said they couldn’t do a party due to COVID-19 and the risk of spreading infection and was inspired after seeing other birthday parades happening elsewhere on Facebook.

“All we need is the tent, a chair, balloons and signs,” said Pamplin. “It’s not every day you turn 103.”

Pyle praised Pamplin for always being ready to help her, and Pamplin shared her love for Pyle, whom she considers a mother figure.

“She’s my mentor and is a good Christian lady. She’s a wonderful friend,” said Pamplin. “She’s my momma, and really I just love her to death.”

One by one, Pyle’s friends and other Tullahoma residents came by and wished her a happy birthday. Pyle waved and smiled as she hasn’t seen some of them in a while since she hasn’t been able to go to church at Cedar Lane church of Christ.

“I don’t get out very much. I would enjoy going to church if I could,” Pyle said.

Despite not going to church, her daughter said COVID-19 hasn’t changed much of her mother’s activities

“People are more hesitant and concerned to bring something to her and she’s not concerned about it. She doesn’t worry about it at all,” said Enzfelder.

Enzfelder also said her mother was born during the 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu.

Enzfelder said, “Her mother would go help people around the country. They lived out in Moore County and she helped out a lot of people.”

When asked what were some her fondest memories, Pyle said working with her late husband, Paul Pyle.

“We had a photography studio for 30 years and then we made mountain dulcimers. We always worked together,” Pyle said.

She added her marriage was wonderful and she misses her husband.

“I miss him a little, but you have to learn to make it by yourself; but I’d rather be here than anywhere else," Pyle said.

Enzelder said her dad loved Tullahoma so much as well as her mother and the love they were receiving during the parade was a blessing.

“To be this respected and loved by your town is a very big blessing,” she said.

The Pyles have received numerous honors for their commitment to the community. In 2014, the city renamed a Wilson Avenue bridge that crosses Rock Creek to the “Paul and Louella Pyle Bridge,” and Louella was recognized by the Tennessee Senate for her life’s accomplishments for her 100th birthday with a certificate of recognition, describing her as “one of Tennessee’s most outstanding citizens.”

Pyle wrote a poem shortly before the parade titled “Trust” which reflected on happenings in the world today and how everyone needs trust to get through.

“Just like my little poem, it says in this time we need to trust the Lord for the future,” Pyle said.

Kyle Murphy may be reached at kmurphy@tullahomanews.com.

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