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One-hundred years is an incredibly long life to live, and fortunately for Bernice Underwood, she's had friends with her for every step of the way.
At a beautiful 100th birthday party at the Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Bernice wasn't the only one receiving flowers and congratulations. Her two close friends from childhood, Ruth Chatman Hammett and Gladys Ware Butler, were right there alongside her, ringing in their 100th birthdays as well! The ceremony included prayers, gifts, songs, an outdoor luncheon and, of course, a birthday cake. With friends, family (including great-great-grandchildren!), and even the mayor all gathered together, it was a perfect celebration of the lives of these women and their incredible tale of friendship.
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The three women met and played together as young girls at church, which they still attend every Sunday. Since then, their lives have been closely intertwined. They were all born in 1916 in the months of June or July. All three of them were pregnant during the same year. They have mourned the passings of their husbands and some of their elder children together. And on June 16th, 2016, they celebrated 100 years of life side by side, surrounded by their loved ones.
Unfortunately, this joyful celebration was tinged with loss. A fourth childhood friend, Leona Barnes, passed away only two months before her 100th birthday. Her portrait was seated next to the three women throughout the service to pay tribute to her life and memory.
When asked why they think they have been so fortunate, each woman had prayer and the grace of God to thank.
The advice they gave to younger generations proved to be just as wise. Ruth simply said, "Don’t talk back," and Bernice encouraged people to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Before her passing, Leona needed offer only one word: "Respect."
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Reflecting back on her life, Bernice also said, "I have no regrets. I’m just happy; I’ve had a good life.”
Bernice with her grandson, Tony Grimes, at her 100th Birthday ceremony
These three women are so blessed to have spent a lifetime together, and we wish them the happiest of birthdays!