Atlanta woman Willie Mae Hardy has 111 reasons to celebrate after marking yet another age milestone that’s as epic as it is rare.
Born on a plantation in Junction City, Ga., on March 12, 1908, Hardy is the granddaughter of a slave and has been a longtime resident of metro Atlanta, reports the Atlanta Journal- Constitution. She was the oldest of seven siblings and spent most of her days doing chores like picking cotton, plowing the fields or tending to the family’s livestock.
In third grade, her relatives said she dropped out of school to help her mother look after her brother and sisters, which was common at the time. Her limited education prompted her to teach herself how to read and write, her profile on the blog “I am Decatur” reads.
The website adds: “One of the most frightening memories she has from her childhood occurred during the Jim Crow era [when] the Ku Klux Klan came to their family’s home and took away her cousin, Dan. She never saw him again.”
Hardy relocated to Atlanta with her husband in 1939 in hopes of finding a better life for her only daughter, Cassie Nell. Nearly 30 years later, she would move to the metro Atlanta city of Decatur to be with her child after Cassie Nell‘s husband died unexpectedly. There, she lent a helping hand in raising her seven grandchildren and is still living with her daughter, who’s now 92 years old.
According to her family, Hardy has seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, 30 great-great grandchildren and four great-great-great grandchildren. She worked as a domestic housekeeper for over 60 years and has been an active member of the Butler Street Baptist Church for more than 73 years. Although she’s too old to attend service, relatives said she continues to tithe and take Holy Communion.
“Due to her age, she’s unable to remain true to all her passions: going for walks, working in her yard, gardening and taking care of her porch plants,” her family said in a statement.
Family and friends also told FOX 5 News that Hardy is famous in her family for her Sunday dinners “where all the generations of grandchildren would gather to eat together.” Some of her favorite shows include Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns,” “Bonanza,” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” The golden-ager also enjoys pastel colors and listening to gospel music.
“Regardless of her age, she remains to be a loving and caring grandmother, our ‘family backbone,’ a dedicated Church member and dear friend,” they added.
Hardy’s birthday celebration sparked a number of well-wishes on social media.
“Happy 111th birthday to Georgia born Willie Mae Hardy of Talbot County, she has lived in Atlanta for over 70 years!,” blog Everything Georgia tweeted on Tuesday.
“Join us in wishing Willie Mae Hardy a very Happy 111th Birthday!” the City of Atlanta also tweeted. “She’s the oldest living Atlanta resident and has seen six generations of children grow up in her family. We are proud to celebrate her life and legacy, and we salute the impact she has made to our great city.”
Hardy even got a birthday shoutout from station News4JAX in Jacksonville, Fla.: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Today is a VERY special day for one Georgia woman! Help us wish Willie Mae Hardy a happy 111th birthday!”