Deaconess group throws party for 100-year-old members

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

party
DUANE C. FERNANDEZ/HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry reads the lifetime achievements of Mrs. Narcissus Brown and Beatrice Johnson.

One had the honor of singing at the White House at age 88. The other had careers in New York and Miami was a basketball player and a ballroom dancer.

The women of the Deaconess Board at Greater Friendship Baptist Church got together and honored two of their special members on Monday.

They threw a birthday celebration for Mrs. Narcissus Brown who turned 100 years old on that day – Feb. 17. Mrs. Beatrice Johnson, who will turn 101 on May 29, also was in attendance.

The party was held at the Daytona Beach home of Essie Smith, chair of Greater Friendship’s Deaconess Board.

Although Mrs. Johnson’s birthday is in the spring, the group wanted to go ahead and honor her as well. They both are members of the church and its Deaconess Board.

‘Feeling wonderful’

Both centenarians felt blessed and expressed their thanks.

“I’m feeling wonderful. The only thing hurting is my little toe. I just have been able to wake up every day. I thank God,” Mrs. Brown said.

Her career included working at agencies that helped children and adults. She also has made great strides as a singer. Mrs. Brown performed at the White House for President George H.W. Bush in 1988 at the age of 88.

“It was marvelous and surreal,” she said about signing at the White House. “I was surrounded by so many people and I was being asked so many questions that I couldn’t answer them all. I was amped up,” she recalled.

Looking forward to 101

At their party on Monday, Mrs. Johnson was having fun and expressed her gratitude as well.

She said, “This is a great party. I had a great party too at Stonewood Grill back in May (2018). I’m looking forward to another in May. I just pray to God every day. He gives me strength and confidence. I thank him every day.”

As a young woman, she moved to New York and worked at the Hattie Carnegie hat shop where she shopped for materials for hats that were made for the Duchess of Windsor. She also worked at General Electric in New York.

Mrs. Johnson worked for 30 years in the Dade County School System as a secretary and later retired from the school board.

In her youth, she was an exceptional basketball player and ballroom dancer who danced at the famous Savoy Club in New York.

‘Come a long way’

They both lived through wars, the Great Depression, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement and 18 U.S. presidents. They have lived through the struggles, progress and setbacks of Black people in America.

“I’ve been through all of it. I am thankful and blessed. Things have gotten better, but still aren’t like it should be. It was worst when I was a kid. We have many in our race who have reached great heights. We must keep going,” Mrs. Johnson remarked.

Mrs. Brown added, “I lived through it all. We’ve come a long way in this country, but we have a long way to go. I would like to see our people recognized as human beings on this earth. God created us all. We should be recognized like everyone else.”

On Obama’s presidency

They also weighed in on seeing the nation election its first Black president, Barack Obama.

“I was elated to see Obama as president. I was proud to see a Black man lead this country. I never got to meet him but would like too,” responded Mrs. Brown.

Mrs. Johnson echoed, “I’ve seen many presidents. It was a great moment when Obama became president. Obama sent me a birthday card. Everyone is nice to me. Not everyone believes that I am 100. I thank God.”

Longtime residents

Mrs. Brown moved to Daytona Beach in 1990 to live with her daughter Nadine Spencer. She was born Feb. 18, 1919 in South Boston, Virginia. Her parents, Bessie and Winston Owens, relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when she was 9.

She graduated from Schenley High in Pittsburgh. She later worked for the Department of Children and Family Services in Volusia County and the Center for the Blind in Daytona Beach.

Along with the White House, she has performed on the shows of Bobby Jones and Bing Cosby, as well as for government officials around the country. She is the godmother of gospel artist Kurt Carr and has sang with him.

Mrs. Johnson was born on May 29, 1918 in Madison, Georgia, and attended school at Howard Academy in Ocala, Florida.

She moved to Daytona in 1995 where her sister Geneva Loper resides. She now lives at the Pines retirement home in Ormond Beach.

She has one daughter, Charlene Riettie, two grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and three great-great grandkids. Her son, Gilbert Michael, is deceased.

Henrys attend

Guests at Monday’s party included Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Zone 5 City Commissioner Danette Henry.

The mayor presented the seal of the city and commemorative pens to the honorees. He also presented them with letters from the city detailing their life achievements.

“I am thankful for both ladies. Being 100 years is a great blessing. These ladies set the example of how to live and exercise our faith. I believe a city that appreciates and honors its seniors will be great. We honor and appreciate them,” the mayor noted.

Commissioner Henry remarked, “This is one of the best parts of being a commissioner – being able to honor people who have been through all genres of life like these ladies have. They have experienced so much, including the nation’s first Black president. I’m delighted to be able to celebrate 100 years with these young ladies.”

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