Since about 1986, through rain, snow or sunshine, Edward B. Hall has opened the doors of Shiloh Baptist Church on Sunday mornings.
And just because he turns 100 years old Thursday doesn't mean he plans to relinquish that responsibility any time soon.
After all, he just retired from digging graves two years ago, so unlocking a church isn't hard work.
"I was never a person who could just stand," Hall said earlier this week after his wife, Ethel, had forced him to sit long enough for a reporter to come and pester him. "I had to find something to do all the time. I was crazy about working. I grew up into it that way."
That upbringing has been a big influence in his life, said the Rev. Joseph Owens of Shiloh.
Owens said Hall hasn't missed a Sunday — not for illness, not for a vacation. When asked why, Hall told Owens he was raised that way, "raised to do what you say you're going to do," Owens said. "If there is such a thing as an Iron Man, it's Brother Hall."
Last year, Hall suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. Owens visited him and told him to follow the doctor's orders. "He said the doctor is not my God," Owens recalled. "I know what I'm supposed to do, Reverend. I'll see you on Sunday morning."
At 6:45 a.m. as usual, Hall opened the doors of the church, having been discharged the night before after spending three days in the hospital.
"He has slowed down a little recently," Owens said. "But before, he could outwork all the young people in the church. He is a warrior. He eliminates excuses."
That work ethic began early for Hall because that's what children did in the early 20th century. They helped the family make ends meet, especially the boys.
Born the oldest of five children in Keene, Hall moved with his family to Rookwood Farm on Bryan Station Road, where his father worked with Thoroughbred foals and yearlings. That meant the 8-year-old Hall worked with the horses as well.
After sixth grade, Hall left school to work full-time with his father on the farm. He learned to read and write, he said, but most of his education came after leaving school.
In addition to horses, Hall helped his father build barns, a skill he used years later to build a five-room house by himself. He used the house for rental income.
He married his first wife while in his teens, but that marriage ended in divorce after only nine months. "She wasn't satisfied and I wasn't either. We were too young," he said.
In 1930, Hall married his second wife, Myra. Together they lived in Paris, where all 13 of their children were born. During that time, he began the side job of digging graves with just a shovel, helping his uncle and others to make them perfectly square. They traveled to nearby counties digging graves, and he finally landed on the payroll at Cove Haven Cemetery, which was once known as Greenwood, and also at Highland Cemetery.
The couple moved to Lexington, buying a home in 1966. After 57 years of marriage, Myra died in 1988. Hall married Ethel, who was a widow in his church, the next year. They will celebrate their 22nd anniversary later this month.
Ruthan Fields, Cove Haven's volunteer operations manager, said she met Hall in 1995 and soon learned he knew exactly where most family plots lay and was very protective of those he had reserved for his own family.
"Everything he told me was true," Fields said. "He could tell me where people were buried who had died years before."
Even then, she said, Hall would jump into the hole he had dug out with a backhoe and, with a shovel, make sure it was perfectly square.
She remembered how discouraged she was at one time because the bucket on the backhoe used by the cemetery was missing a significant number of teeth. She mentioned it to Hall, who told her to hang on and have faith.
The next day, the backhoe had a new bucket. "He never said where it came from or who did it," Fields said.
"I always felt like Mr. Hall had my back," she said. "He'd always say, 'Don't walk away from this place. The Lord's going to bless you.'"
Hall retired from American Tobacco in 1974 and finally from digging graves in 2009. "I can't get up on the backhoe now," he said.
But he still drives a little, still takes off without telling his wife he is gone, and still keeps moving.
But he stopped drinking beer and whiskey in the 1960s, soon after meeting a woman who persuaded him to get back into the church after a 42-year absence.
"I was converted," he said. "I've been going ever since."
"He is one of my most faithful members," Owens said. "He is a big encouragement to me."
And to Fields as well.
"He will let you know he trusts in the Lord and that everything he does is driven by his faith," she said.
And that's true.
When asked when he planned to rest, Hall said, "When the good Lord takes me away from here."