They came in various forms of ambulatory movement from all over the state: some walking, some with canes, some with helpers, others on walkers. The occasion was the annual celebration of centenarians, all of whom will be 100 or more years of age by the end of the year. The event has occurred annually and 2014 marks the twenty-second year for the observance.
Baltimore's Martin's West, located at 6817 Dogwood Road was the scene for the luncheon Thursday, May 8, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. There were 51 honorees, along with their family members and friends, present for the commemorative event. The menu included fruit, crabcakes, chicken breasts with dressing, red potatoes, green beans and carrots, iced tea and red velvet cake.
The program that ensued was emceed by Ms. Ernestine Shepherd, age 76, the world's oldest competitive female bodybuilder. The century-old youngsters touted their various talents.
Ms. Odessa Tartt Harris, age 100, sang 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'I Love You Truly'. Ms. Pearl White, age 100, played a selection on the keyboard. The Greenmount Senior Center Korean Dancers captivated the audience with its two performances. The Smoove Dudes Band performed for the audience as well.
There were remarks and greetings by representatives of various gerontological agencies, including Maryland Department of Aging, Social Security Administration, Community College of Baltimore County, Office of Aging and AARP. Most of the speakers spoke about the wisdom, insight, longevity and character of these elders who were leaving a great legacy for future generations.
In addition, the Maryland Centenarian Committee awarded a scholarship to Ciera Stewart, a student from Baltimore City Community College, who loves to work with the elderly.
This writer was honored to be among the many centenarians who shared their words of wisdom to their longevity.
John Pinkard, age 102, had driven from Silver Spring to Baltimore by himself saidn he did not really know the secret, but if anyone wanted to invite him to any other event to check the obituary column before inviting him. He said there really was no secret.
Vincent Lindyberg, age 105, said his secret was honesty and being raised as a Christian. He said the secret is a relationship with God. He also said if you want to grow old, you have to have something to do.
Ninety-nine year old Thelma Hansen, whose birthday is November 29, said her secret was serving the Lord, eating right, not drinking or smoking and exercising. She also told me that she loves plants, flowers and needlework.
Katie Collins said to put the Lord first. At 102 years of age, she stil loves to read, write and attend art class. She is known as "Original".
The caretakers for 102-year-old Gladys Carrington said her secret was in being feisty. Queen Esther Turner, also 102, was not sure.
The vision for this event was birthed in 1993 by a graduate of Morgan State University's Gerontology Program, Dr. Odessa Dorkins. Dr. Dorkins wanted to organize an annual recognition luncheon for centenarians. Thus, with the support of some other agencies, began the 501 (c) 3 organization known as the Maryland Centenarians Committee, Inc.
Several of the people in attendance came as supporters of Dr. Dorkins. Catherine Stansbury, one of her sorority sisters, was present. Dr. Sylvia Wood Wooten, one of her church members, had come from Washington DC.
The celebration was sponsored by the Maryland Centenarians Committee, Inc, Social Security Administration, AARP, Maryland Department of Aging, Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville, and Baltimore City Health Department-CARE Services.
The luncheon was a great opportunity for congratulations, admiration and fellowship. Next year's luncheon will take place Thursday, May 14, 2015.
For more information, check out the website at www.mdcentenarians.org.