St. Charles Parish resident turns 101

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 9, 2009


Staff Reporter

DESTREHAN — When St. Rose native Virginia Harris was born on a cold January day, St. Charles Parish was just beginning to come of age as an industrial hub for the river parishes, blacks and women were not allowed to vote, and the flag of the United States of America was adorned with just 46 stars. Over a century later much has changed and Harris has been around to witness most of it.

Harris, a resident of Ormond Nursing and Care Center, recently celebrated her 101st birthday at the home with a small party of family and friends.

“This is my day,” a beaming Harris proclaimed. “I’m just going to enjoy the heck out of it and praise the Lord for letting me be here to appreciate it.”

Harris attributes her longevity to a strong relationship with God and “a clean heart” that never became over worked with too many of life’s concerns.

“Say it once and let it go,” Harris said. “You can’t keep anything inside. You just have to get rid of it.”

Family members and staff at the care center say that even at 101, Harris is still very active and extremely alert making certain she greets everyone who passes with a wave and a “hello.”

“Her memory is very, very sharp, “said Harris’ great nephew Arthur C. Blue. “She recognizes her family and is very attentive.”

Harris is one of 15 children born to Emile Vinnett and Octavia Clark between 1887 and 1910. She recalls growing up in a crowded house during a simpler time in our nation’s history.

“It was a nice place to live at that time,” Harris said of St. Rose. “Folks were closer and very loving. There was a lot of sharing between neighbors — the sort of thing that just doesn’t happen that much anymore.”

Although full of love, Harris said she lived in a family of rules and order, where the older members were much more strict on the younger group.

“We weren’t driven up, we were raised up,” said Harris. “When evening rolled around, we better have been home or we would have faced the consequences. We had to respect all the older people.”

Being able to see the struggles of African-Americans first hand has given Harris a great appreciation for the life she has lived and the strides that black Americans have made in society.

“Never in my life would I have dreamed that I black man could even come close to being president of the United States,” Harris said. “I see it as a blessing from the Lord and I think with God’s help, he will be a fantastic leader.”

When asked to offer some advice to the younger generation, she was reluctant at first and said, “they don’t want to hear it.” After a little coaxing, however, she provided one simple edict.

“You have to have your word,” she said. “If you don’t keep your word, you are nobody.”