Willie Mae Hardy has 111 reasons to smile this week. The woman who has seen over a century of life turned 111 this week and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Ms. Hardy was born on a plantation in 1908 in Talbot County, Junction City, Georgia. Her grandmother had been enslaved. After the Emancipation Proclamation the family remained on the plantation as tenant farmers. Growing up, she spent doing chores such as picking cotton, plowing the fields, caring for hogs and chickens, along with tending the garden. Despite her limited education she taught herself to read and write and has been an advocate for her children and all her grandchildren to get an education.
One of the most horrible memories she has while growing up occurred during the Jim Crow era. The Ku Klux Klan came to their family’s home and took away her cousin, Dan. She never saw him again after that day.
In 1939, Willie Mae moved to Atlanta with her husband in search of a better life for her only child, Cassie Nell. She also worked as a housekeeper for various families over the years. Cooking was a passion and collard greens were her specialty. In 1966, Willie Mae’s daughter lost her husband unexpectedly, and Willie Mae moved to Decatur to help care for her seven grandchildren. She has continued to live in the same house with her daughter ever since.
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