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Twelve African American Centenarians Honored

Deborah Bayliss | 10/3/2013, 11:42 a.m.
Aimlee Cruikshank, 109, sat quietly as her daughter Pamela Potts shared the centenarian’s story during an event at the Wheeler ...
L-R back row, Community activists Otis Porter, Meldan Langford and Miguel Bonilla were on hand to serve centenarians who were honored Friday during an event held at the Wheeler House Senior Apartments, 1450 W. 69th St. Pictured front row L-R Community Activist Webb Evans, who turns 100 in Oct.; Aimlee Cruikshank, 109; and Aileen Reed, 103.

Aimlee Cruikshank, 109, sat quietly as her daughter Pamela Potts shared the centenarian’s story during an event at the Wheeler Home Apartments Friday morning that honored 12 African American centenarians.

Potts told the audience gathered in the Wheeler House community room, 1450 W. 69th St., how her mother, as a child was stung one day by bees in her quest to satisfy her craving for honey.

 L-R: Rose Atchison, 100; Mirl Lee Cathron, 102; and Aileen Reed, 103, were among those honored Friday during an event held at the Wheeler House Apartments, 1450 W. 69th St.

L-R: Rose Atchison, 100; Mirl Lee Cathron, 102; and Aileen Reed, 103, were among those honored Friday during an event held at the Wheeler House Apartments, 1450 W. 69th St.

“My mother went to school in Nebraska and learned to take care of a home,” Potts said as she addressed the audience, turning every now and then to coax a response from her mother who sat at the honoree’s table behind her. “She served Eleanor Roosevelt and raised the daughters of (Max) Adler, of Adler Planetarium and remembers the day Pearl Harbor was hit.”

With somewhat celebrity status due to a feature segment on Harry Porterfield’s CBS 2, ‘Someone You Should Know” show, Cruikshank is still very active and worked as a receptionist at the Marcy Center in North Lawndale until June of this year.

Community Activist Andrew Holmes, who organized the event for the second time, wanted to once again publicly recognize the elders.

“I do this because we have to get back to honoring our seniors,” Holmes said. “Pastor Willard Payton of the Wheeler House always opens his doors for this. These are people with rich histories and great stories. Some of them picked cotton and some took part in the Civil Rights movement and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Some of them were around when there were no telephones or televisions.”

Holmes says it’s very upsetting to hear on the news when a senior citizen is robbed or beaten.

“In the news recently, an 80-year-old was beaten and robbed,” Holmes said. “We’re putting out fliers asking for anyone with information to contact us or turn the perpetrators in. We’re also starting to do seminars to speak to the youth in the schools about respecting and honoring senior citizens.”

Unfortunately, some of the seniors were hospitalized and could not attend the event; however Holmes said they’ll still receive flowers and the certificate of acknowledgment from State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16) District.

With front-door limousine service provided free of charge by Chi-Town limousine service, the centenarians arrived at the Wheeler House in grand fashion where they enjoyed food, music and a special cake in their honor.

Rosie Atchison (102 years-old), and longtime community activist Dr. Webb Evans, president of the United American Progress Association, who turns 100 Oct. 20, were among the 12 celebrated centenarians honored during the event.

Atchison, born Aug. 15, 1911, dressed in a black and white polka dot dress, black sweater and black hat that partially hid a crown of puffy white hair, is somewhat of a celebrity in her own right, having been featured by Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Mary Mitchell as she hit centenarian status.

“I think it’s really nice they’re recognizing the elderly this way,” said Atchison’s daughter, Alberta Davenport who sat next to her mother. “My mom is blind now but she understands what’s going on. I thank God for her.”