LUFKIN, Texas (AP) — Bettie Turner has thousands of children.
From kindergarten students and fourth-graders, to college students and middle-aged adults — they all belong to "Granny" Turner.
"I make them mine," Turner said, "and that seems to work out well for the children and for me, because we enjoy it so much."
Turner celebrated her 100th birthday Monday, along with her 26th year as a foster grandparent for the Central Independent School District, where she has spent time with students at the primary and elementary levels.
Turner was led to the library on the elementary campus, where the staff waited with cupcakes and punch. After serenading her with the "Happy Birthday" song, staff members took their turn congratulating "Granny" and thanking her for all she has done for the school.
"No one can forget Granny," said former staff member Jamie Solly. "She has a lot of spunk and a lot of love for everyone, students and staff members alike. I think working with these kids every day has kept her young and kept her going. It is humbling to see that passion that she has for kids and for life. Not many people make it to 100."
Dawn Bailey said "Granny" has become a school icon and a permanent fixture on the elementary campus.
"She has been here every day for almost 30 years," Bailey said. "If she isn't here, all the students want to know where she is and when she'll be back. They all want to see her and give her a hug, and she hugs every one of them and says, 'Good morning, baby,' or asks them how they are doing. She is helpful to the students in so many ways."
Turner's role as a foster grandparent include reading to students, helping them with flashcards, and assisting the teachers and staff however she can.
"The best part about all of this is being here with this staff," Turner said. "They are all sweet people, and the kids are, too. There is not a single person here I don't like, and not a single minute of it that I don't enjoy."
Turner said the reception and the kindness she received on her 100th birthday was a "truly great feeling."
"I feel like I'm on a cloud, seeing all this love around me," she said.