Centenarian celebrates with family and friends

MACON. Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Willie Mae Purnell was born on Ooct. 8, in 1911.

Wednesday she celebrated her 103rd birthday. Purnell spent her special day surrounded by friends and family as they seranaded her by singing happy birthday.

Purnell has outlived four of her seven children. she says her secret to living a long life has been keeping God first.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added,” she says. Purnell’s favorite passage in the Holy Bible is the 23 Psalm and she says  she recites the Lord’s prayer daily. She has been a member of Jackson Temple Holiness Church since 2005.

Purnell says her fondest memories of growing up in East Macon was spending time with her grandfather.
“I use to follow him around for candy,” she laughs.

She told the small crowd gathered at the Cherry Blossom Nursing Home, she did not have a speech but wanted them to know she loved all of the people who showed up to celebrate her birthday with her.

The crowd was made up of her daughters, grandchildren, church members and friends. She told them about some of the things she has lived long enough to experience during her lifetime.

“I never would have thought that I would live to see a Black man become president of the United States of America,” says Purnell.

“But, when it happened,” she laughs “I’m crazy about him.”

She worked in a dry cleaners for more than twenty years cleaning silk. She said she swore none of her children would ever have to endure the hardship she did while working at the cleaners.

“My oldest daughter, got a scholarship to college,” she says, as she smiled with pride. “And, when the money ran out God made a way for her to finish school.”

Guest shared a kiss as they handed her gifts and birthday cards. Purnell began to cry, and then recalled the words to her favorite hymn.

“Father I stretch my hands to thee, no other help I know, if thou withdraw thyself from me where would I go,” she added.

Categories: Local News

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