By Dennis M. Grant,
Birthdays are special, and when you have had 109 of them, they are not only special but they are a true blessing from God.
Such is the case for Eula Viola Brown-Polk of Terry, MS. She is affectionately known as “Aunt V” and she celebrated her 109th birthday Monday, May 24, 2021.
This remarkable Christian woman is still full of vim, vigor and vitality. She is sharp in mind and just as quick witted as she was years ago, and her family wanted to make sure that it would be a special day for a special lady.
The preparation for this rare and historic occasion began months ago when her family, who calls themselves “Team Aunt V” got to work. Led by her niece Dollie Gathings and great niece Mae Grant, family and friends were requested to send 109 birthday cards for the event.
More than that number was received in the form of cards, letters and emails, as well as official commendations and resolutions from Representative David Blount, NAACP President Derrick Jackson and Congressman Bennie Thompson.
But an event as monumental as this needed an extra day of celebration. Therefore, the celebration began on Sunday, May 23, honoring this “centennial wonder.”
With her nephew Morris Bozeman and her great nieces and nephews pitching in, Polk’s home and yard were beautifully decorated with birthday banners, balloons and floral arrangements. Inside, the walls were adorned with cards from well-wishers and great nieces Alma Cline and Geralean Gipson formed the number “109” with them.
A big bouquet of birthday balloons were tied to the mailbox and a bright gold inflatable “109” stood proudly in the front yard.
Onlookers passing by honked and waved in jubilation. And even though they may not have known her personally, many of them stopped to inquire if indeed it was true and once verified they returned with gifts for her as well.
Polk was surprised with a visit from her nephews from Florida and California and friends from Chicago who all came to celebrate her.
As the Sunday celebration began, Polk was chauffeured in a “tricked out” golf cart donated for the occasion by Willie Lee Sutton and driven by her great nephew Willie Bozeman, both of Terry, MS. She was driven to the edge of her driveway where she then enjoyed a parade in honor of her special day.
Her neighbor, Joseph O. Kendrick Sr., who calls her “the mother of our neighborhood,” spruced up his yard to allow for individuals to park and stand to watch the parade procession.
A convoy of cars led by the Corvette Club was escorted past her home by the Byram Police Department and Hinds County Sheriff’s Department. The powerful corvette engines, sirens and honking horns provided a joyful sound as they slowly drove by. Each car was showroom clean and their wheels sparkled like diamonds.
Following them were another group of cars from the Antique Car Club of Terry, MS. Shiny studebakers, classic cadillacs, oldsmobiles and groovy grand prixs were a hit with those in attendance. It was a grand drive-by for a “grand Lady,” with more than 75 cars participating.
One participant in the parade was State Representative Gregory Holloway of District 76. He also presented her with a resolution from the Mississippi House of Representatives
Byram Mayor Richard White drove an antique candy apple red thunderbird and also offered celebratory remarks to Polk.
After the parade Polk was greeted by members of her church family, Little Bethel CME church of Terry, MS, and her pastor, the Rev. Dr. James Loftin.
They all joined her in a special birthday dinner consisting of her favorites of smoked chicken wings, turnips greens and other sides. The meal was prepared by her great niece and nephew Kathy and Kenneth Funchess of Terry.
They also whipped up her favorite pound cake and a special birthday cake with a blinking “Happy Birthday” on top.
Yes, it was a special day for a special lady but the celebration wasn’t over yet.
On Monday, May 24, her actual birthday, the celebration continued with another parade coordinated by Chelsea Crittle, of the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District/Area Agency on Aging.
Crittle, along with Angelique Rawls, from the Hinds County Human Resource Agency, had been asked to nominate a centenarian in recognition of Older American Month. Polk was the perfect candidate.
This was a great honor because it would include special recognition from Governor Tate Reeves. Although he was unable to attend, First Lady Elee Reeves proudly stood in for him and presented Polk with a special commendation, flowers from the Governor’s Mansion garden and a souvenir towel.
When asked what was her secret to long life, Polk answered, “Trust the Lord, live right, and treat everybody right,” which evoked a personal “praise Jesus” from the First Lady.
That seemed to have been Aunt V’s mantra throughout her life. Quiet in nature, but not silent in her opinion, Aunt V is the embodiment of a strong, secure, loving and “loved on” black matriarch to a large and close knit family.
Her great niece Earlean Bozeman, who is her caretaker, and a friend Janice Smith got the excited crowd to join in singing Happy Birthday. It was a joyful sight as Polk sang along with them raising her hands as if she was directing a church choir. First Lady Reeves remarked, “She is a spunk of Jesus Christ on earth.”
Bob Anderson, executive director for the Mississippi Department of Human Services, was also in attendance. He, along with personnel from MDHS, wished Polk a happy birthday and spoke kind words to her.
Polk was then interviewed by WLBT photojournalist Jerome DeLoach. Excerpts from that interview are below:
Deloach: What does this celebration mean to you?
Polk: It let’s me know that people haven’t forgotten about people. God wants us to love one another and we are to love people. I love people and I sure do love God and he must love me because he let me be around here a long time.
Deloach: What advice would you give to all the viewers watching?
Polk: “Trust in the Lord with your whole heart and whole mind. Love one another.”
DeLoach: What’s your advice for long life?
Polk: Go to bed early, get up early. Work hard and do what is right. Leave that whisky bottle alone; it won’t do you no good. Love everybody.
Being a women who is always concerned about others, she asked Deloach,”How is your life?” He replied, “I’m blessed.” Polk said, “God bless you.”
It was a grand and laudable weekend of family and community love and respectful honor celebrating a “phenomenal woman” on her 109th birthday.
Contributing writer Dennis Grant is the great nephew of 109 year-old Eula Viola Brown-Polk.
See photos of the celebration on page 16.