Gertrude Hamilton recently celebrated her 99th birthday.
She attributes her longevity to her faith, love and fellowship of good family and friends.
About 28 years ago, Hamilton decided to invite a few ladies to her home after church. She prepared dinner because she thought that would be a good way to celebrate her birthday. Everyone enjoyed themselves so much, they’ve been celebrating birthdays ever since.
One of the original attendees was Janie Bittle. She came up with the name – “The Six Bees.” Bittle says she can’t remember exactly when she came up with the name.
“It was a cute name and had a ring to it,” Bittle said. She said they also came up with rules and regulations and selected officers. Bittle said they started with six ladies and hoped to have 12 members so they could celebrate a birthday every month. But, it didn’t work out that way.
Since most of the members are growing older and are widows, they meet quarterly to celebrate birthdays. Several members have passed away and some new members have joined.
“Most of the time we go to restaurants because it’s easier than cooking and it doesn’t require cleaning up afterwards,” Bittle said.
They like to explore different restaurants.
At their June gathering, some of the Honey Bees shared their feelings about the importance of fellowship and meeting new friends. The ladies are polite, elegant and down-to-earth.
The host of the June gathering was Karen Reynolds, who has been a member of the Honey Bees for one year. She said the group decided to celebrate the 28th anniversary in a more relaxed environment.
The June event celebrated Honey Bees with birthdays in April, May and June. That included Hamilton, the founder of the group who turned 99 on June 13.
Hamilton seems much younger.
“I do have a good memory. I may not remember things right away, but it will come to me when I’m in bed,” she says.
The group still welcomes new members.
“It’s best if people join at the end of the year or the beginning of the year. That way all birthdays get covered,” Bittle said.
“I remember when I was the youngest in the group. Mrs. Hamilton had us over for dinner and it was so nice we wanted to do it more. We just cut up and have fun ... we really enjoy ourselves.”
Bittle emphasizes the importance of laughter.
She said every December they bring covered dishes to someone’s house.
“We wear red festive attire, pull names and exchange gifts,” Bittle said.
The Honey Bees also support each other if one is sick.
Most of the members attend St. Paul Baptist Church. Through their work with the church, members of the Honey Bees volunteer with the clothes closet and food pantry. Hamilton says they also help with a Child’s Place, the Salvation Army, Church Women United, AARP and the Baptist Home and Foreign Missionary Convention of North Carolina.
When asked about some of the secrets to longevity, Hamilton has a lot to share.
“We live as long as the Lord allows,” she says. “Don’t take the Lord out of your life. Treat others how you want to be treated ... and always be honest.”
Hamilton said she stayed away from drugs or alcohol and never ran around with a bunch of fellas. “I’ve always been involved in the church and the community,” she said.
“I think friendships contribute to longevity. My daughter is planning my 100 birthday celebration for next year,” Hamilton said.
She also believes that being kind and friendly contributes to longevity.
Hamilton said when the Honey Bees get together they are excited to see each other and they have a ball.
“To stay together this long is amazing.”
Charlene Price-Patterson is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Charlene? Write to her at CPPCityNews@gmail.com.