‘Ma Pattie’ turns 100

Published 8:55 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

Family members and friends of Pattie Lee Taylor Bailey packed into the Whaleyville Community Center on Saturday, carrying birthday cards and well wishes.

Pattie Lee Taylor Bailey, known as "Ma Pattie" to family and friends, celebrated her 100th birthday last week.

This wasn’t just any birthday party, though. Lifelong Whaleyville resident “Ma Pattie” turned 100 years old on Tuesday, and it seemed the entire community came out to help her celebrate.

Ma Pattie sat at the head table, clad in a pink jacket and matching button that read “Happy 100th.” She had been transported to the center by a white limousine. Dozens of birthday cards lined the windowsills and tables around the room, and family and community members took turns honoring her with speeches.

Email newsletter signup

Raised in Whaleyville as the second of six children of Joe Willie and Pearl Sweatt Taylor, Ma Pattie is the granddaughter of slaves and has seen many changes in the community, the world and technology during her lifetime. When she was born, relatives pointed out, most travel was done by foot or by horse and buggy. Ma Pattie attended segregated schools and was not allowed to work until she was in her 50s.

Despite the challenges, she graduated from the eighth grade at Robertson School in Whaleyville. In 1928, her family moved to Wilmington, N.C., with the relocation of the local saw mill. However, Ma Pattie stayed behind and married at the age of 17.

Her work experience included picking cotton, doing seasonal work for peanut farmers and being the maid at Whaleyville’s William J. Jones School — now the Whaleyville Community Center, where Saturday’s celebration was held.

She also spent many of her years caring for neighborhood children and cooking for neighbors.

Her husband passed away in 1968. She has lost two sons — one as a newborn and the other, Clinton, just last year. Her daughter Hazel now is 81 years old. Many of those in attendance Saturday were grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

Ma Pattie has been a member of Mineral Springs Baptist Church for 90 years, and is a member and treasurer of the Missionary Circle and past member of the Usher Board. The church members affectionately refer to her as “Mother of the Church.”