Maryland's elders embrace spirit of 25th anniversary centenarians' celebrations

— The skies outside the building were overcast, but the ballroom at Martin’s West in Baltimore was filled with sunshine and blue skies for the 25th Annual Maryland Centenarians Recognition Luncheon on May 11, 2017.

Ninety-six centenarians were honored with an afternoon of festivities with friends and family by the Maryland Centenarians Committee, Inc. More than 500 guests enjoyed an afternoon of presentations, music and a crab cake lunch to honor 96 persons across the state of Maryland celebrating their 100th birthday this year.

Odessa D. Dorkins, founder and chairperson of the event’s host organization, Maryland Centenarians Committee, Inc., reflected on how far the celebration has come since the first luncheon.

“This is an exciting time. In 1993, I did not think we would still be in existenc,e but every year, the centenarians called me and wanted to know when the next event would be,” said Dorkins. “When I started, I only knew one centenarian and the Social Security Administration identified 860 that year (1993). Today, we have way over 1,800 centenarians living in the state of Maryland.

“For me, it’s a small way of saying I am grateful just to be among these great giants. Instead of getting the family together for a funeral, we wanted to see family come together for a celebration There is plenty of joy here, fellowship, friendship and celebration. We couldn’t ask for more.”

Family and friends traveled from across the nation to celebrate Maryland’s centenarians from as far away as California, Texas, and Florida; and in Maryland, from as far west as Hagerstown and down on the Eastern shore from Salisbury.

Several state and local organizations, including AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) served as co-sponsors of the Maryland Centenarians Celebration.

“AARP Maryland is so proud to be part of the Centenarian event. We’ve been here for many years, and we truly value the wisdom, grace and knowledge that the centenarians and their families can transfer to younger generations,” said Mike Kulick, program specialist for AARP of Maryland.

“AARP seeks to disrupt aging and make it known that just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean the possibilities stop. The spirit of celebration here is wonderful,” Kulick added.

Deacon Timothy Greene of the Transformation Church of Jesus Christ invited the entire fellowship to celebrate his special day. More than 100 people from the church wore their Sunday best to the luncheon. All were eager to say a good word about the active, spirited Greene, an organist who still plays the opening hymns on Sunday mornings at the church.

“I’ll be 100 on September14. That’s the big day!” said a spry and playful Greene, who attributes his longevity to good music and hard work.

“I have always been playing the organ in church, and going to work. I was expecting to have a Hammond organ out here for me today,” he jested. “I appreciate all my church members and all my relatives and all my friends..

Lena Mae Floyd rounded up 14 of her 17 children to celebrate with her at the luncheon. Her daughter, caretaker and third oldest child, Ella Parker, remembered the sacrifices her mother made to raise 17 children.

“We’re so proud to be here with her today. It’s been a joy to take care of my mother. I watched her when we were little taking of us. I’ve watched her and my Dad in the cotton field take care of us and do everything they could for us. She and my father always taught us to do the right thing. It’s really good when your parents instill good values in you,” Parker said.

Willie Margo Purdy, honorary chairperson of the Centenarians Celebration, summed up the spirit of the day for herself and fellow centenarians.

“Just being here, that’s the best part of this occasion,” said Purdy, who takes no medication and only uses herbal supplements to remain in good health and maintain radiant skin.

“She takes no medication at all,” said family friend Tanwa M. Suma, about Mrs. Purdy. “When she goes to the doctors, all the doctors surround her with note pads [to] learn from her.”

Baltimore City CARE Services, Beacon Magazine, CCBC Catonsville, and the Maryland Office of the Social Security Administration also served as event co-sponsors.