This past Monday, Nov. 18, was a monumental day in the life of Southwood resident Mildred Creech Garris as she marked her 100th birthday, celebrating the milestone with friends and reflecting on the highlights of her life thus far.
Born in 1913 to Ellen Powell Creech and James “Jimmy” Creech, Garris was raised with five brothers and sisters on a tobacco farm near Whiteville.
As a child, she enjoyed fishing with her father, and as a youth, she loved to play basketball. She was also very active in church, joining White Marsh Baptist Church when she was 13 years old. After graduating from high school, she attended Lees McCrae College in Banner Elk and became a teacher. She taught second grade at numerous area schools, including Tomahawk Elementary and Burgaw Elementary, during her teaching career.
In her early twenties, she met plumber Robert Garris during a church picnic held at Lake Waccamaw. The two later married in South Carolina when she was 24 years old and settled in Harrells, the town she ended up calling home for more than 50 years.
While the couple never had any children of their own, Garris touched the lives of many youth, from those in her classrooms at school to those she taught in Sunday School at Siloam Baptist Church in Harrells.
Garris’ former pastor at Siloam, Blair Little and his wife Rachel, were on hand for her birthday celebration on Monday and joked that Garris practically helped raise their four sons.
In addition to teaching, Garris enjoyed gardening and spending time outdoors. Crafts such as sewing, knitting, and crocheting have always been among her favorite hobbies, ever since her mother taught her how to quilt. Even at 100 years old, she still continues to knit. For her birthday, she donned a pink sweater and necklace she made herself.
With no blood relatives living, Garris’ family and friends at Southwood Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, where she has been living for the past two years, helped fill the void, throwing her a surprise birthday on Monday in the center’s dining hall.
After blowing the candles out on her birthday cake, Garris was presented with a framed proclamation from Harrells mayor Jimmy Moore who declared that Nov. 18, 2013 would be Mildred Garris Day in honor of 100th birthday.
Then it was time for Garris, her roommate and best friend Edith Godbold, and her many friends at the center to enjoy birthday treats and open presents. Miranda Woodcock, who leads a knitting club with Garris at Southwood, helped the birthday girl fill her plate with cupcakes and finger sandwiches while praising her friend for continuing to live life to the fullest, even in her advanced years.
“I work out here on the weekends and we knit together,” said Woodcock whose husband Donnie provided music for Garris’ party. “I think she’s amazing. She still does a lot of different things and just doesn’t give up. She’s a very sweet lady.”
The Littles, who moved to Harrells in 1968, pastored Siloam Baptist Church for 12 years, and continued to keep in touch with Garris after leaving, also described their old friend as “faithful,” “dependable,” and one who was “always doing good deeds.”
And not much seems to have changed, according to Southwood activity coordinator Dixie Jordan-Coates and the rest of the center’s staff.
At Southwood, Garris is a member of the center’s Resident Council Committee and the Hospitality Committee, shared Jordan-Coates, mentioning that Garris often writes thank you notes to visitors that are “beautiful and written from the heart.”
“It is an honor to know this sweet, caring, kind Christian lady,” continued Jordan-Coates, adding that Garris “has had a good life. God has surely blessed her to live to be 100 and in good health.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.