DOWNEY – Family and friends from across the country will gather to celebrate Henry Lee’s 100th birthday on May 23 at the Embassy Suites hotel in Downey. Henry was born May 20 in Foxworth, Miss., the thirteenth child of 16 children. Raised on the family’s 400-acre cotton farm, Henry learned early what hard work was from planting and picking cotton to doing his farm chores.
Henry quit school in the ninth grade following his father’s death to work the farm and support his family.
At the height of the Depression, Henry left the farm to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, working on forests and roads for the government. After two years he left the CCC, married his wife – the then Miss Jessie Mae Fortenberry – in 1936 and they had a son, Jack, in 1937.
Henry worked as a welder in a lumber mill for six years before setting out for California in search of a better life. He arrived in Los Angeles in May of 1941 with $12.50 in his pocket.
He settled in Downey in 1969 and spent several years at General Cable. He went on to start his own business, Lee Welding and Engineering, in South Gate. He is credited with several inventions and patents, including tow truck hitches and reciprocators used to apply finishes to refrigerators.
Outside of work, Henry was active in the Huntington Park Elks Club, where he served on several committees. He took up golf at age 67 and still plays 18 holes every Tuesday and Thursday at the Rio Hondo Golf Club.
Published: May 21, 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 06