A century in the making

Published 5:17 pm Saturday, October 10, 2009

There will be a whole lot of candles on Addie Word’s birthday cake today.

Word is celebrating her 100th birthday today with family and friends.

“It’s been on the way for a long time,” she joked.

Word was born Oct.11, 1909, in Pender County N.C.

Her family soon moved to Norfolk, Va., where she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School.

Word returned to North Carolina to attend college at Johnson C. Smith University, in Charlotte, and came back to Virginia to begin her career in education.

Word was a primary school educator in Sussex County, Norfolk and Suffolk, where she taught at Andrew J. Brown Elementary School.

Word taught for many years (“I don’t know how long, long enough to retire,” she joked) and was very active at East End Baptist Church, where her husband C.J. Word was the pastor.

“She is a phenomenal woman,” said Mark Crosten, East End’s current pastor. “She exemplifies all the things that one might think of in terms of Christian character. She is thoughtful, loving, a very deeply spiritual woman, and a tremendous encouragement to our congregation”

In fact, Word is so beloved by the church body, that the congregation is throwing a celebration in her honor at its Sunday service.

For her part, Word said she is just thankful to have the opportunity to live this long.

“I’m just trying to live,” she said. “I’m trying to hold on to God and to those around me. God has been very good to me thus far.”

In the past 100 years, the country has seen world wars, man land on the moon, an entire civil rights movement (Word’s husband actually met with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he traveled to Suffolk) and countless other major historical landmarks.

When asked if there was one moment or one event Word is happy she witnessed, her answer was simple.

“All of it,” she said. “I remember life as it is, as a whole. All of it has been wonderful. There have been many, many things I’ve witnessed, and you might say I’m appreciative to have seen them.”

For those looking for tips on how to live a full life, Word said she has no real insight.

“The best thing I can say is to keep on living,” she said. “Do your best to live for God and live for others.”

Word has one daughter, Shirley Kimbrough, who now lives in Massachusetts and two grandsons.