When Henrietta Peay Brown was born on July 29, 1904, African Americans were less than 40 years removed from slavery. The Wright brothers had made their history-making flight some seven months earlier. And New York City that year opened its first subway line.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Brown celebrated her 105th birthday at her Hidden Valley home in north Charlotte, surrounded by family and friends. And on Saturday, she’ll attend a black-tie celebration at First Mayfield Memorial Baptist Church, a congregation she helped found in 1974. (Read her bio.)
Mrs. Brown doesn’t talk much these days, unless she wants to, but her daughters — Delores Foster, 71, and Barbara Jean Mobley, 59 — say her mind remains sharp. She reads the Charlotte Observer each day along with her Bible and Baptist hymnal.
“She can tell you what she reads,” said Foster. “Sometimes you think she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but then you read it for yourself and you see that she was right. And her money… she keeps count of her money.”
At that, Mrs. Brown smiled.
The daughters described their mother as a strict disciplinarian who never smoked, drank alcohol or used tobacco. And they also recalled her love for baking, flowers and children.
“The children are what kept her going,” Foster said. “She was the neighborhood mom.”
In return, Mobley said, her mother’s determination and faith were an inspiration to others as well.
When Mobley suffered a stroke and aneurysm in 2001 and doctor’s doubted her survival, she said it was thoughts of her mother that helped pull her though.
“When you have people like mama, you can’t give up,” Mobley said. “She has inspired me to keep on living. I think she’s amazing.”
Mrs. Brown was born the fifth of 14 children in Chester County, S.C. Her daughters say longevity is not all that common in their family. Mrs. Brown’s parents died in their late 70s, but three of her sisters lived into their 90s. One, age 95, lives today in Baltimore.
Photo below: Henrietta Brown, 105 years old, poses with her daughters, Barbara Jean Mobley (left) and Delores Foster (right).
IF YOU WANT TO GO:
Where: First Mayfield Memorial Baptist Church, 901 Oaklawn, Avenue.
When: 4 p.m.
Featured speaker: State Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr.