Bartow Woman Celebrates 100th Birthday With Car Parade
by James Coulter
Patsy Harris has been living at her Bartow home ever since the 1950s. There she raised seven children who would go on to bless her with many grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, and even a great-great-grandchild.
Over the past century, Harris has lived a full life as a wife, mother, hard worker, and faithful servant of God. More than 37 cars passed by her house to help celebrate her 100th birthday on Sunday.
Harris and her family sat outside her home and watched as a parade of 37 cars filled with neighbors and loved ones passed by to offer her birthday greetings. Even several police cars from the Bartow Police Department participated. Her family, in turn, greeted them to present them all with gift bags.
The occasion officially kicked off with a small ceremony started with a prayer from Rev. Markus Floyd from Burkett Chapple Primitive Baptist Church in Bartow, at which Patsy had faithfully served for many years. He commended her for her long life and legacy, and prayed that God would continue to bless her family.
“You said you will bless them to the third and fourth generation,” he said. “This is an example of your blessings being manifest. Continue to bless and keep her, Lord, and we thank you for this opportunity.”
An official proclamation was presented to her on behalf of Alphonso Wyche, Senior President of the Wyche Family Reunion Foundation, who commended her for becoming a centenarian with a long and fruitful life.
“May every minute of your 100th birthday be filled with the immense joy you have shared with your loved ones for 100 years,” Wyche wrote in the proclamation. “Happy Birthday. Wishing you many more years of good health, overwhelming happiness, amazing grace, and perfect peace of mind.”
Judge Cassandra Denmark wrote a letter to Harris, calling her a gem so rare and beautiful now that she had reached the prime age of 100. In her letter, she expressed her joy of knowing someone who had reached such a ripe old age and wished continued blessings on Harris and her family.
“You are truly blessed,” Denmark wrote. “You have lived 100 years. And have 10 decades of memories as a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, great-great grandmother, and great-great-great grandmother. You are officially receiving birthday wishes, kisses, hugs, and a cake with 100 candles. This is an incredible milestone but nearly as incredible as you.
Your years of 100 years is a testament of the wonderful life you have lived, and I wish you love and continuous health.”
Harris was born on Aug. 9, 1921. She has lived in her current residence since the 1950s. During that time, as women were unable to buy houses, her brother purchased the house for her, though she paid the bills and eventually received the deed from him, her daughter, Sally Fields said.
Harris worked as a domestic worker and in the laundry department at Winter Haven Hospital. Her house only had three bedrooms and one bathroom, yet in it she was able to raise seven children. Though they did not have much, she always had an open heart and willingly gave to anyone who needed it, Fields said.
“My mother was a hard-working person,” she said. “She was a caring person. She mentored others. She loved people. She did not matter sharing what she had, no matter how little we had, people would come and stay and feed people and she took care of her father as a caregiver, so we are doing the same thing for her. We rotate in and out with her, because she did that with her and her siblings.”
Over the past century of her life, Harris would be blessed with 7 children, 20 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren, 41 great-great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-great-grandchild. Harris always supported her seven children with every aspect of their lives and encouraged them to be the adults that they are.
“She made sure we got the education if we wanted it,” Fields said. “She was supportive and always said we could be anything we wanted to do and the sky was the limit.”
Her eldest son, Walter, owes her long life to her faith in God. Her youngest daughter, Josephine Battles, likewise owes her mothers long life to faith in God, and described her legacy as a hard worker and even harder-working parent.
“We may not have got what we wanted when we wanted it, but we got it,” Battles said.