Special to South Florida Times
RIVIERA BEACH — Friends and family gathered Sunday at the R.J. Hendley Christian Community Center in Riviera Beach to help super centenarian Charlotte Hawkins Flowers celebrate a monumental birthday.
The Riviera Beach resident became one of the oldest living human beings when she turned 112 years old Monday, Feb. 20.
Her granddaughter, Rangelique Moultrie-McCray, arranged the after-church gathering to honor the occasion with loved ones at the center. Everyone had kind words to say about Flowers, who has achieved a feat of longevity that few could match or exceed.
Flowers has lived in Riviera Beach since March of 2005 after moving from Tallahasse, Moultrie-McCray said, adding that she never expected her grandmother to live this long but definitely thinks it is a blessing.
“Every year since I can remember she would tell us, ‘This may be my last year. I’m going home to be with the Lord,’” Moultrie-McCray, 49, said. “So no, I did not see her being here this long. But we are certainly grateful to God that He has kept us together.”
A centenarian is a person who is 100 years old or older and a super centenarian like Flowers is defined as someone 110 or older.
Moultrie-McCray said Flowers’ longevity has kept her mother’s side of the family closer because they are all focused on her care and well-being.
That longevity may be attributed to a concurrence of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors,
according to the website extremelongevity.net.
Close friend the Rev. Herman C. McCray Jr. said he has known Flowers for the last 50 years.
“I enjoyed being around her, talking to her. When I met her, I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement,” McCray, 71, said. “When I became a minister, I would read the Bible to her. We would have prayer together. She’s a good friend, full of wisdom.”
Flowers’ only surviving niece, Doris Littles, 80, said her aunt has been an inspiration. “She’s always been there for us, for advice, good or bad. She’s loving and kind. She’s just a beautiful Christian.”
Moultrie-McCray said her grandmother has dementia but the family tries to keep her active daily.
“She goes to the Alzheimer’s Community Care Center in West Palm Beach Monday through Friday,” Moultrie-McCray said. “She has been going for the last two years. So that gives her something, an outing.”
Moultrie-McCray said at first Flowers was reluctant to go to the center, saying, “I don’t want to be up there with all of those old people.”
She said she told “Gram,” as Flowers is affectionately called, “You will be the oldest one there, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Moultrie-McCray says the center also lets Flowers socialize with other older adults who are not necessarily as old as she is but in the same age range.
daughter Mia Moultrie, a single mother of three, has been the direct caregiver for Flowers since she moved to Riviera. Caring for Flowers has its challenges but is well worth the effort, she said.
“It’s a big responsibility but me and my mom [Rangelique Moultrie-McCray] take turns with her,” Moultrie said. “When I need a break, she comes. When she needs a break, I’m there for her.”
Moultrie, 32, said Flowers’ longevity is a blessing and she’s honored to do what she can for her great-great-grandmother.
Flowers does not speak very much these days but she is able to express herself in a few words or short sentences.
She has outlived six siblings and all of her nine children, the eldest and the youngest, including Moultrie-McCray’s mother Bobbie Flowers Moultrie, who died in 2009.
Moultrie-McCray said like her grandmother she has had a very blessed life and will continue to give back.
“My grandmother has always been one who cared. She always gave whatever she had. And she didn’t have much but she gave what she had,” Moultrie-McCray said. “She told us it was important for us to care for each other.”
Photo: Charlotte Hawkins