Early this year, America lost its oldest citizen – an Iowa woman who died in her home in Cleveland Heights. Only a few months after, the country would record yet another milestone as another woman has turned 114 making her America’s oldest living citizen.
Coincidentally, both women are black and have reached the age of 114.
Alelia Murphy from Harlem was surrounded by her family and a crowd of loved ones as she was wheeled into a party room. The neighborhood-wide birthday party was put together in her honour by officials in Harlem, New York.
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Also, the community will henceforth recognize July 6, her birthday, as “Alelia Murphy Appreciation Day.”
Spotting a tiara, a yellow suit and a smile, she sang along the recording of Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” as she entered the room.
She is currently believed to be the oldest person in the United States and has an impressive healthy status – her blood pressure is normal and she is not diabetic, one of her grand-daughters told the media.
Murphy was born on July 6, 1905 in Grifton, NC. She moved to Harlem in 1926 in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. She was followed by her boyfriend from home, whom she married later that year.
As a young woman, Alelia enjoyed designing hats, baking pies and dancing. She liked going to the Savoy Ballroom — a dance spot on Lenox Ave. that Langston Hughes called the “Heartbeat of Harlem.”
She was widowed in 1953 and supported her two children as a seamstress for most of her life. She was also a saleswoman for the Fuller Brush Company which called her “The Queen of Sales.”
Her daughter, Rose Green, and granddaughters Nefer Nekhet and Crystal Lewis attended to Murphy throughout the party.
“She made me happy when I was young, so I try to make her happy now,” said Green who did not give her age.
Murphy is also a big fan of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. “She called Obama her guy and contributed to his campaign twice,” said Nekhet.
Nekhet, 50, who owns a hair salon in Brooklyn, said her grandmother taught her how to make apple pie from scratch and to put effort into everything she does.
“She taught me how to do things right the first time,” said Nekhet. “And I’ve been married for 25 years because I listened to Grandma.”
She said her grandmother, who has thyroid, takes vitamins and some medication but has no high blood pressure, no hypertension, no diabetes, and “nothing like that.”
Proclamations and letters were read from Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Letitia James, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.
Members of the African American Caucus of the Service Employees International Union designated Murphy an honorary member, and draped a president’s red, green and black sash around her.
“We are looking at a Harlem landmark,” said state Sen. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan). He said that July 6 will always be known in Harlem as Alelia Murphy Day.
Murphy didn’t speak during the event at the Harlem State Office Building. But according to its program, when she is asked the secret to her longevity, Murphy replies: “Obey God and treat people right”.
There are currently over 30 remaining super-centenarians worldwide, according to the Gerontology Research Group in Sandy Springs, Georgia.