Mama Pearl, centenarian plus two

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Pearl Atkins stirs on her porch, greets her neighbors, and perkily leads visitors to her living room on North Pine Street. Her birth was discovered in an old family Bible, and as Miss Pearl says, &uot;The Bible don’t lie.&uot; Mama Pearl, as she is affectionately called, was born near Luverne on May 9 in the last year of the nineteenth century.

When her mother, Lottie, died, she remembers that she was nine. Shortly thereafter, her father, Phillip Patterson, moved her and her nine siblings to Greenville, living at the Three Mile Well on the Beeland Place. &uot;For most of his life, my Papa worked back and forth between Greenville for the Beelands and Crenshaw County for Felix Rheem.&uot; Mrs. Atkins has lived in this area except one year, at the age of 45, when she lived near Canton, Ohio.

Strong in mind, she reminisces, jumping from childhood to the present with clarity. When asked about her education, she remembered that she attended one year &uot;until the boys had to go war (WWI) and the women had to take over the fields.&uot;

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Technologically astute, she believes the telephone and the television are wonderful inventions. &uot;In the old days most news transpired once a week at church,&uot; she said.

Strong in body, she recalls with pleasure her move from a field worker to housekeeper and cook. Today, she is known for her pies, especially sweet potato, and her flowers. During her nineties, she walked to visit the sick and shut-in. After a heart attack in January, she immediately returned to her church

Harrison Street Baptist pastored by the Rev. O.D. Cook. Just last week, a pacemaker was implanted, and this week on a hot summer afternoon, she was seen outside tending her plants and talking to a friend on a portable phone.

Strong in spirit, Miss Perkins is one of the founders of Harrison Street Baptist Church, which recently made her an honorary member of the Senior Usher Board. Even though she claims, &uot;Done some devilment in my time and forgotten it,&uot; but, every year, she is selected as the mother of the year, the oldest mother and grandmother of the most grandchildren.

Her fondest memories are obviously of her Papa. &uot;Papa took me to church, and I lived with him until he died in a car wreck,&uot; she said.

She believes that &uot;what’s wrong with the world today&uot; is parents don’t discipline the way her father did. &uot;One time my papa whipped me in front of my boyfriend,&uot; she declared.

Mama Pearl has six children; three sons live in Florida and check on her often. One of her daughters, a granddaughter and several great-grandchildren live with her. When asked how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she has, she humorously responded, &uot;Too many grands and greats; they fill half the church.&uot; One sister, Lula Patterson, who is two years younger, lives in Andalusia.

So when driving down North Pine, look for a small, bright-eyed lady stirring on her porch, tending flowers, and waving to neighbors. Remember Mama Pearl is 102 and remains strong in mind, body and spirit.

&uot;Tell ’em, &uot; she proclaimed, &uot;I ain’t dead, not quite gone. He’s not ready for me.&uot;