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Jamaican celebrates 100th birthday in Miami

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Catherine Mitchell is 100Catherine Mitchell has lived for 100 years. Born April 27, 1912, she celebrated her special day on April 27, 2012 with a birthday gathering at her Miami, Florida home.

The great-great grandmother sat among family and friends with a smile that showed the wisdom and experiences of a life lived with joie de vivre.

Born in Mannings Field, Clarendon, Jamaica, Mitchell migrated to the United States in 1982 a year after her husband Obadiah died. Living between the home of her son Hubert Mitchell in New York and her daughter Evadne Mitchell Beckettin Miami, she eventually settled in the southern state and built her life around the church with family and close friends.

Although her speech has been affected by health issues, Mitchell's message is clear - life is about laughter, a loving family and healthy living. Last year, at her 99th birthday celebration, she attributed her longevity to living a quiet life, eating healthy and always drinking my pot water.

CAREGIVER

Evadnie cares for her mother full-time with pride, love and responsibility.As a caregiver to my mom, it's 24/7, she said fighting back the tears at last month's birthday celebration. And yes, my lifestyle has changed drastically, but she's my mom and I love her dearly.

Thank God for my mom, thank God for keeping me and giving me the strength to be here for her and to celebrate her 100th birthday. It's a blessing from God. I can't even find words to say how much I am proud of my mom.

Hugging her mother, Evadnie reminisced about growing up in Jamaica with her parents as her mom smiled broadly and listened intently. She told the large gathering about the time her mother gave her a handbag that had come from America.

Å“I never forget how my mom used to dress me up every Sunday to go to church with this big black handbag,Evadnie recalled.

“I was so proud because my handbag came from America. Well, all my friends used to laugh at me and I always wondered why. But, as I grew older I realized the handbag was a doll's bag, but I was still proud and honored that my mom gave it to me.

LOVE FOR MOM

Mitchell is flanked by her children Hubert, left, and Evadnie.Hubert also spoke lovingly about his mother. Å“In our family there is nobody that has ever lived to 100, so we have to celebrate,  the son said. She did so much for my sister and myself. When my father passed in 1981we decided to bring her to America, and that was the best decision we ever made. She came, she lived with us, she planted trees, cooked and ate good food, went to church, and she prospered. My mother is blessed.

Sereah Beckett, one of Catherine Mitchell's seven grandchildren, explained the invaluable relationship she has with her grandmother. My grandmother is a treasure that cannot be replaced by money, by jewels, said Beckett. She always strived for us to have a better life, to be peaceful, to be healthy and be better for ourselves and others.

CHURCH GAINS

As a long-time member of the Miami-based Church of  the Ascension, and an integral part of its Affirmative Aging Ministry, Mitchell's active involvement became part of her daily life. She is still highly regarded by the church and a special mass and communion was performed with her church family embracing her.

Veronica Bascom, her sister in faith, said Mitchell welcomed her to the church when she first joined, as she did with all new members. She greeted me like a friend, said Bascom. She held my hand and said come here dear let's sit down and talk. And that I will never forget.

The centenarian smiled and raised her clasped hands to her lips in appreciation. But it was the kiss from family friend Monty Hunt, who travelled from Port St. Lucie, Florida to celebrate with Mitchell, which elicited a short tune from her. The centenarian ended her night with a song on her lips, friends and family by her side, and a prayer of thanksgiving.

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