Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Bessie Faulkner of Buford shows her appreciation to the friends and family members who came to celebrate her 100th birthday at the Buford Senior Center on Thursday.
BUFORD -- Buford's Senior Center was packed Thursday morning with more than 75 people who were there for one reason: Bessie Faulkner.
The Buford resident and member of Poplar Hill Missionary Baptist Church celebrated her 100th birthday with close friends, family and church members while wearing a teal dress and dollar-bill sash.
Faulkner visits the center almost every day of the week to play bingo, help in the dining hall and socialize with other senior citizens.
"She's been a member of the center for over 20 years," said Tim Morris, Gwinnett County senior centers coordinator. "She's been a very special person for us and our program, so we wanted to do something for her."
During the party, Manager of Buford Senior Center Joy York talked about the celebration, Morris emceed, fellow center visitor Wayne Sprouse read a poem about the birthday girl and there was a special presentation given by Crimson Academy students. Those students gave Faulkner a handmade bouquet of flowers and hugs to celebrate the centenarian's milestone.
Two highlights from the day were the hymns sang by Poplar Hill's choir -- which Faulkner still sings with -- and the speech given by Pastor Avery Headd.
"Mother Bessie has the power to love everyone because she received that power from God," he said to the crowd. She also has the wisdom to know how to use it."
Headd went on to describe Faulkner's life: born in 1912 with no phones, cars or indoor bathrooms, she has lived through the Depression, Prohibition, Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement.
"During the World Wars, she learned how to do without to give to the troops," Headd said. "But she always remembered to smile."
After Headd stepped down from the podium, Shirley Reed, the center's activity director gave the last remarks and dismissed the crowd to eat cake.
"They've been planning all year," Pamela Brown said, one of Faulkner's many grandchildren. "We knew they were going to do something about it -- we just didn't know it would be this big of a celebration. It was really nice."
At the end of the festivities, Faulkner had a chance to talk to her adoring crowd.
"Thank you for coming," she said into the microphone. "I really enjoyed my birthday."