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Durham Woman Turns 108 Years Young

Lucille Ervin, Durham, St. Mark AME Zion
Leoneda Inge
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Lucille Ervin, wearing a corsage, sings during her birthday celebration at St. Mark AME Zion Church in Durham.

There was a special birthday celebration for one of Durham’s long-time residents Tuesday.

Lucille Ervin turned 108 years old.  About 30 people gathered on the lawn of St. Mark AME Zion Church to wish her well and sing "Happy Birthday".

Ervin moved to North Carolina from South Carolina 80 years ago.  And she’s been here ever since.  She was born in Charleston and raised by an Aunt and Uncle who lived on land handed down by their slave owners, according to Dorothy Fuller, Ervin's cousin.

Dressed in a light blue suit, wearing pearls and a pink corsage, the 108-year-old cried at times as friends wished her well.

“God is good and I appreciate what you’re doing.  Thank you so very much.  And I continue to keep you in my prayers," said Ervin.

Ervin is a longtime member of St. Mark AME Zion and she worked at Duke Hospital as a dishwasher for nearly 40 years.  Many folks call her "Nana."

Connie Cheatham is 83 years old and says she has known Ervin since she was a little girl.

“Kind, loving person and she’s the same everyday. Nothing changes," said Cheatham.  "I told her you’ve been awful good for people to love you like they are and they really do.  She’s a blessing, she’s a blessing to me.”

Cheatham made Ervin a large Pineapple Birthday Cake with “108” on the top.  Family members say Ervin has always been very health conscious, but loved baking pound cakes.

Lucille Ervin, Durham
Credit Leoneda Inge
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Connie Cheatham made Lucille Ervin a Pineapple Birthday Cake, 'her favorite.'

Mayor Bill Bell spoke at Ervin's birthday celebration.

“You know we have an opportunity to celebrate ribbon cuttings for institutions, for buildings.  I have never had the opportunity to celebrate an individual who has lived 108 years," said Bell. 

A "History Grove," a small restful site with a commemorative bench and marker, will honor Ervin, thanks to the Museum of Durham History.

Durham non-profit A Helping Hand hosted Ervin's birthday party.  The organization has supplied volunteers, for years, to assist Ervin, who continues to live at home.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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