Pastor Tyrone Ford and First Lady Kadell Ford of United for Christ Freewill Church said it was an honor to celebrate Mrs. Bennett and all that she’s accomplished in her life.
BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Mrs. Mattie Bennett has seen a lot of history in her lifetime. But recently, she was honored for making a bit of history of her own. She celebrated her 99th birthday, and her church family and community members came together to tell her how much she is loved.
Pastor Tyrone Ford of United for Christ Freewill Church said it was an honor to celebrate Mrs. Bennett and all that she’s accomplished in her life. From playing the piano for various churches and teaching piano for nearly 70 years to making history as the first full-time Black registered nurse at Bayfront Medical Center.
“Her tenacity, knowledge and perseverance at 99, she is really good,” he said. “She still communicates well and is a very skilled woman.”
Kadell Ford, the first lady of United for Christ, said she admires all that Mrs. Bennett has done in her life and enjoys being a part of her extended family.
“She was the first Black woman to have her own ward in the hospital,” First Lady Ford said. “She paved the way for Black RNs.”
During the celebration, church members showered Mrs. Bennett with love and flowers and told her how much she meant to them.
“Nurses from various organizations came and talked about how appreciative they were of her,” the first lady continued.
Bennett said she believes good genes and a healthy lifestyle are part of why she has had such a good, long life.
“I’ve been staying active and doing word search puzzles to keep my mind stimulated,” she said.
Along with the way she lives her life physically, she believes there is great power and blessings in showing kindness and compassion to others.
“I believe it’s because I have patience and tolerance and unconditional love for others,” she said.
Her advice to younger generations is to be more loving and kind to those around them.
“We need to have more patience and show more kindness,” the near centenarian said. “Less fighting and more helping.”
Mrs. Bennett said she is grateful to have had the chance to see the first Black president and vice president of the United States, although she is worried about the increase in violence, something she also never thought she would see. She also can’t believe how electronics have taken over.
“This world has become so full of electronics and technology,” she said.
As for her birthday celebration at her church, Mrs. Bennett said the day made her feel special.
“I am so grateful to my pastor, first lady and church family for supporting me and helping me,” she revealed. “They are very loving people. I am so grateful for their kindness.”
Pastor and First Lady Ford said it was an honor to celebrate Mrs. Bennett and her wonderful life and legacy.
“She is easy to get along with, and I admire the history that is in her. In this fast-paced world, we can forget the knowledge and value of elderly people. They paved the way for what we have now,” Pastor Ford said. “It was an honor to celebrate her. We wanted her to know how much we appreciate her and that we won’t forget her no matter how old she gets.”
Mrs. Bennett is very active at United for Christ Freewill Church, where she is the church mother, an honorary trustee and still plays the piano every week.