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Independent at 105

105-year-old Bernice

At 105 years old, Bernice’s eyes, hands and mind are still as sharp as the needles she uses to sew quilts and crocheted items. And although she uses a walker to move about her tidy home, she still has the strength to stand and cook, which she demonstrated by serving large slices of moist pound cake with vanilla buttercream icing that she had made the day before, anticipating our visit.

Bernice was born in Kentucky on March 14, 1910, the youngest of three brothers and seven sisters. After her mother’s untimely death, Bernice’s older sisters taught her to sew, a skill that she used vocationally and continues to this day.

At the age of 16, she married her childhood sweetheart, Buford, age 18. The next day, the young couple moved from Kentucky to Indianapolis. Bernice and Buford were married 53 years, and together they reared two sons and a daughter.

As a seamstress, Bernice sewed clothing and made alterations. She also worked for several years at Sandburg’s making tailored suits and furs. She pointed out a depression quilt in her closet made from discarded material from men’s trouser legs.

Today, she still sews, crochets and enjoys working on craft projects with her friends at the Bethel A.M.E. Church. The women in her missionary club pick her up, and together they go visit the sick and “shut-ins.”

Bernice has outlived her immediate family. A nephew, Ken, checks in on her, drives her to the store and appointments, and takes care of other household needs. Ken’s mother previously was a CICOA client, and he introduced his aunt to the agency last fall. Now through CHOICE funding, CICOA provides an aide three days a week for two hours each day to help with showering and housekeeping tasks.

“Living in my own home is really important to me,” Bernice said. “I enjoy staying at home, seeing my friends and being surrounded by my things. My home is full of memories.”