’I whisper a prayer to keep my heart in tune’
Growing up, Minnie Bradley never thought about growing old.
As a child, the Manning, S.C. native only wanted to reach 20, so living for more than a century didn't even enter the picture.
Bradley turns 102 today, and even though she may not have the eyes of a hawk or the ears of a deer, she still can sing like a bird.
"I didn't want to be but 20 years old," Bradley said in a raspy southern voice. "I just wanted to get 20 so I could be grown up and when I got a whipping I could cry all I want to. When you got a whipping they told you to stop crying. I said when I turned 20 I would cry all I wanted to. I wanted to cry when I got a whipping or a spanking. I didn't want to get one and not be able to cry."
Father Time has taken Bradley's sight and she struggles to hear clearly, but her mind remains sharp. She remembers phone numbers, enjoys gospel music and isn't shy about singing a song to someone.
"I whisper a prayer in the morning, I whisper a prayer at noon, I whisper a prayer in the evening to keep my heart in tune," Bradley sang while talking with the Times.
Born on March 27, 1911, Bradley recalled a simple childhood spent going to church, school and playing "ring go round" in a small South Carolina town southeast of Columbia with her four siblings. Bradley's mother passed away when she was very young, prompting a move to Thomasville to 1927 to live with her brother and sister.
"I lost my mother when she was 33," said Bradley. "I was too young to be hanging around by myself. I like it here and I'm satisfied. I say God's got my soul and my life is in his hands."
As an adult, Bradley married her husband Joshua in 1933 and made a career working in nursing homes, tending to the elderly. If given the chance, Bradley said she wouldn't change a thing.
"My best memories are things that are past and gone," Bradley said. "I would like to do it again but I can't do it now. Maybe some of it, if I could see."
Despite spending much of her time in a wheelchair, Bradley isn't afraid to show how much juice she has left in the tank.
"I feel good," said Bradley just before she tried to stand up. "I'm all right. I pray night and day off and on. Some nights I sleep good, some nights I don't. On the nights I don't sleep good, I lay there and pray to God. Whenever people ask me, I say he keeps me in the right mind, not crazy and not knowing what I'm saying. God is on my side."
Bradley's nephew and neighbor, James Henry, said she is pretty self-sufficient during the day. She doesn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call him if she needs anything.
"More of less, she just likes to sit here and listen to her gospel music on the radio," Henry said. "She knows all her phone numbers and she can call anybody. Her mind is in good shape. It's just a blessing."
While Bradley doesn't have any secrets for her longevity, how she treats others may have something to do with eclipsing the century mark.
"Honor thy mother and thy father so your days will be long upon the land which the Lord by God giveth thee," Bradley said quoting Exodus 20:12. "I was never sassy. I didn't start no arguments and I didn't talk back to grown people."
Henry said Bradley also keeps up with world events, including the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Coming from the deep south during a time of intense segregation, living to see the country's first black president was special.
"I just said we had to pray to get him in [office] and we had to pray to keep him in," said Bradley. " We had to ask God to help him and remember the whole wide world."
Whatever Bradley lacks in vision or hearing is made up 10-fold though her zest for life. The spirit of her songs reflect a 102-year-old life spent serving God and treating others how she wanted to be treated. Bradley may not have thought about life after 20, but it turned out she found a lot more to do than cry after a whipping.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.