By Lindsay Seagraves/News Editor
Friends and family waited on a hot Saturday afternoon for Lessie Mae Pearson-Darby to make her arrival at her 100th birthday party at Antioch Baptist Church.
The church activity center on East Broad Street was filled with guests old and young alike, all there to honor Ms. Lessie Mae’s century of life.
A portrait of a younger Ms. Lessie Mae — guests assume she’s in her twenties — sat beside a purple guest table, and became the focus of the activity center lobby as those entering made conversation about it.
As a car pulled under the covered pavilion, guests scattered to make room for the guest-of-honor to be wheeled in.
To everyone’s delight, Ms. Lessie Mae stepped out of the car with the help of her daughter, Diane Pressley, and walked into her party “fashionably late” — with no wheelchair in sight.
Her party felt like “one big reunion” as family said, swapping stories of Ms. Lessie Mae as they greeted each other.
Friends described Ms. Lessie Mae as humble, loving and caring, saying she had a quiet personality and a positive outlook on life.
Guests attended the party from as far as New York, including one daughter-in-law from Ohio, Gwendolyn Pearson, who says it was important to her to make it to Ms. Lessie Mae’s party.
“She welcomed me with open arms when I married her son,” she said. “I wouldn’t have missed it.”
During her party, Ms. Lessie Mae was presented a framed birthday greeting from President Obama, which was even signed by first lady Michelle Obama herself.
Ms. Lessie Mae previously celebrated her birthday on Tuesday with the City of Gadsden, as she received a proclamation from mayor Sherman Guyton naming June 7 of 2014 “Lessie Mae Pearson-Darby Day.”
The city council and Guyton said they are “inspired by her long life and offer her sincere best wishes for good health, happiness and an overflowing abundance of love and joy.”
Ms. Lessie Mae has seen her share of overflowing love and joy, as she was the baby of three children to June and Annie Lee Darby.
When she married her late husband Cephus Pearson, Ms. Lessie Mae moved to Gadsden, where she resides today.
She has five children, Billy, Raymond, Carrie, Julius and Diane, and is blessed with 18 grandchildren, 47 great grandchildren and 13 great, great grandchildren.
Ms. Lessie Mae worked in various places during her 100 years, from the fields to being a maid, nanny and a school lunchroom helper. She also helped in her daughter’s daycare.
Ms. Lessie Mae is the oldest living member of Macedonia Baptist Church, and was recently honored for her faithful membership.
Ms. Lessie Mae was also nominated one of Gadsden’s Outstanding Mothers by the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Her children agree, saying she is a wonderful mother who taught them discipline and respect for others.
Ms. Lessie Mae says she attributes her long life to her love of God and to her church. She is honored by all for her contributions to her family and community.
As printed on Ms. Lessie Mae’s birthday announcement, “Age is not an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” -Mark Twain