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NC man preparing for 100th birthday shares the secret to living a long life

Known as "Mr. History," Norris Dearmon knows a thing or two about Kannapolis. And he should, having spent most of his 99 years in the once booming textile town.

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Norris Adam Dearmon knows more about Kannapolis, North Carolina, than just about anyone. In fact, they call him "Mr. History" because of his extensive knowledge of the town. 

And maybe he should know more than anyone else. After all, at 99 years old, he's spent most of his life in the town that was famous for its textile industry. Born Aug. 7, 1922, Dearmon spent 43 years working for Cannon Mills, the company that put Kannapolis on the map. 

He even worked at the mill part-time while in high school to earn extra money. After finishing school, Dearmon met his future wife, Dorothy. They were married in April of 1942, just seven months before he was drafted into World War II. 

"I knew that my number was coming up because they'd already warned me to expect it any time," Dearmon said. "We were married and didn't know whether to live here, or live there or what."

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He was sent to dental school and eventually ended up in a war zone in Iceland with the Army Air Corps. While in Iceland, he served as part of a medical unit. After the war, Dearmon was honorably discharged and he returned home to Kannapolis, where he started his full-time career with Cannon Mills. 

Credit: Norris Dearmon
Inside a computing office at Cannon Mills, where Norris Dearmon worked for more than 40 years before retiring in the 1980s.

In the summer of 1949, Dearmon took a position in the tabulating office, where he was a supervisor. Within a few years, he worked with some of the world's computers, including the UNIVAC. That's the type of computer found in old videos and photos that would completely fill a large room. 

"When I was working with UNIVAC, I was one of 200,000 men all over the United States that could do that," he said. "And I was the only one in our office."

Dearmon retired from Cannon Mills in 1985. This gave him more time to compile his extensive knowledge of the community where he's lived all these years. This began his journey to start the Kannapolis Museum, where visitors can learn about the town's history to this day.

"Whenever I got out of Cannon Mills, I didn't want to do computers anymore," Dearmon said. "So I just grew from there, into getting a little bit of stuff doing here, a little bit going there until we had enough to go into the library. We were given a spot in the library to start a history room, and that's where we started."

Credit: Norris Dearmon
Norris Dearmon delivered the newspaper as a teenager for extra money.

Dearmon said his favorite memory of Kannapolis was delivering the Salisbury Post newspaper as a kid. 

"I had 100-plus customers. That's a lot," he said. "I started up at north Kannapolis and went all the way down to the end of Kannapolis." 

So now that he's counting down the days until his 100th birthday, what's Dearmon's secret to a long life? 

"You really want me to tell you that? The secret is don't smoke," Dearmon said. "Don't drink and stay away from women."

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