Joe Fudge/Daily PRess PHoto Tom R. Harrison of Hampton was born on Feb. 29, 1920 Bear Grass N.C. He has lived in Hampton for over 60years. He celebrated a leap year birthday Saturday with his family at Golden Corral. (Joe Fudge, Daily Press / February 25, 2012)
Harrison turns 92 today, although his Leap Day birthday has hindered the opportunity for him to eat cake on his actual birthday. Harrison was born on Feb. 29, 1920, meaning his birthday is skipped three out of every four years.
Roughly 200,000 people nationwide were born on Leap Day, according to the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.
"I still feel great up here," said Harrison, motioning to his head.
Out of convenience, his family threw a semi-surprise party Saturday at his favorite Hampton eatery — Golden Corral.
"I feel like he might have known a little," said daughter Gerry Deas about the party.
Harrison was surprised by three living sisters, Annie Cratt, Mertie Coultrain and Nellie Rogerson, as well as numerous other sons, daughters and other extended family nearly all of whom live out of the area.
"I think working on the farm growing up definitely shaped who he is, he has a very strong work ethic," Deas said. "Even when he wasn't at work per se, he was working on the home or at church."
Harrison grew up among 12 brothers and sisters on a farm just outside of Bear Grass, N.C.
His two sisters, Rogerson and Coultrain, said they remember joining their mother to pick cotton in the fields as soon as they got home from school.
"It was a lot of work," Rogerson said. "But we all loved each other, so there really wasn't much to it."
Shortly after his father's death, Harrison dropped out of school and began working to support his family.
"He joined the Navy and was involved in World Ward II," Deas said. "After he got out, he started working at Fort Monroe."
Harrison began overhauling the woodwork on boats and eventually became a carpenter servicing the buildings at Fort Monroe.
"There was a time when I knew the number of every building down there," Harrison said.
Fort Monroe is also where Harrison met his wife Catherine "Kay" Glover.
"We were retired on the same day," Harrison said. "I was told that was the first time they had ever retired a married couple like that."
The Hampton resident is still independent, although he needs help during the summers mowing his lawn, a chore his son, T.R. Harrison doesn't mind helping with.
"I come over on Thursdays and the entire house is clean," the younger Harrison said. "He's doing well for himself."