The number 100 had a particularly poignant ring for Beulah Weekes Clark of Port St. Joe last week.
On Jan. 29, after a health scare that worried her daughters, Clark celebrated her 100th birthday, surrounded by family and friends and with congratulations from folks as disparate as Willard Scott of NBC and President Barack Obama.
Last week’s festivities, which included cake that brought a smile to Clark’s face as she gobbled icing with her fingers, was also a cause for celebration for Clark’s extended family tree, which now totals nearly 100, including those who have married into the family.
And if it seemed as if that family had been celebrating for at least 100 days, well, that was an easy assumption given the glorious bound book of memories and photos from family through the years which was presented to Clark on the occasion of her birthday.
“She is still a pretty feisty woman,” said Linda Hamilton, Clark’s nurse from Covenant Hospice, which presented Clark with a banner to commemorate her century on earth.
The birthday celebration began in full on Dec. 29 when an estimated 63 family members gathered in Graceville for the family reunion the extended Clark family has held twice a year for nearly 50 years, a reunion that was encouraged as a way to maintain and strengthen family ties by her husband, the late Judson Douglas Clark, Beulah’s husband.
A second pre-birthday party was held later in the month for those unable to attend the first.
Last week, joined by family members Joy and Dale Smith, Donna McCroan and Ruth and Tommy Sauls – Joy and Ruth are daughters of Beulah – as well as Pastor James Wiley of Oak Grove Church, Jann Stoneback,Velma Frederick and staff from Gulf County Senior Citizens, Clark celebrated the official birthday.
In addition to the local and family festivities, Clark received a card of congratulations from three presidents, Obama and George W. and George H. W. Bush, as well as a mention on the NBC Today show and a shout-out from Scott.
Clark is something of a trailblazer and undoubtedly an example for her six daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces, who took the time to fill more than 100 pages to mark the significant events in the life of Beulah Clark.
“We thank our Lord Jesus for our mother, grandmother, great- and great-great-grandmother’s life and her influence on us every one,” wrote Ruth Sauls in a letter.
Clark filled her 100 years with the quiet grace and goodness that marks her character, as highlighted in the book of memories.
She bore and raised six daughters. She was the heart of the household while her husband sold insurance and worked with the fishermen in the community.
Beulah was an early carrier for the Panama City News Herald and toted her daughters with her on her paper route.
She returned to college, balancing studies with the work of raising her girls.
Beulah went on to teach Special Education in Gulf County, the first special education teacher in the history of the county’s public schools. She devoted her life to her faith, studying the Bible daily and teaching other women in Sunday School.
She was known for her helping hands to the needy.
As a daughter wrote in her book of memories, “She is a woman of strength and dignity, and has no fear of old age. When she speaks her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says. She prays faithfully for her children’s families; she does not interfere or give advice.
“Charm is deceptive and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who reverences and fears God shall be greatly praised. Praise her for the many fine things she does. These good deeds of her shall bring her honor and recognition.”
Much of that honor and recognition can be found in that tribute book, the dedication of which spells out the impact that Beulah Clark had on her family and the community around her.
Vacation trips, passings and births, family photos, remembrances of the day her husband graduated college, details about a daughter’s contraction of and return to good health from polio, the highlights of a hog kill, anniversaries, memories of summer, weddings and reunions abound in the book.
The book was put together by children, grandchildren and other relatives and friends.
“So many memories, so little time, to remember and relive in our minds all the many ways she has molded and influenced our lives.
“Happy birthday Mama, Grandmamma Clark, Aunt Beulah, Mrs. Clark. We have all been blessed to have your gracious influence in our lives. Thank you for being a role model for so many; for holding forth Godly principles and examples for us to follow; showing us, by your faith in God, that we, too, can live a victorious life in Christ … right on until he calls us home to be with him.”
The Clark family wishes to thank all who contributed to last week’s celebration, especially Covenant Hospice (Darwin Barwick created the celebratory banner), Parthenon Prints (which printed the memories book), Duren’s Piggly Wiggly (which provided the cake), Bayside Florist and Gifts (which sent flowers) and Bay Breeze Antiques (which donated a bird feeder). The family also thanks all who brought or sent cards, flowers, gifts, prayers and thoughts and other blessings.