Making a grand entrance in a 1929 black Chevy and elegantly attired in a grey-green metallic two-piece dress with silver shoes and a matching hat, a 90-year-old Baltimore resident and South Carolina native arrived at her surprise birthday celebration on Sept. 21.
Prepared for what she was only told was an evening out, Roberta S. Phillips was truly surprised to find that Dr. Odessa D. Dorkins, her only daughter, had invited 125 close family members and friends to the Forum Caterers in West Baltimore to celebrate the milestone of turning 90.
“The party was fabulous,” Phillips told the AFRO “I was really on cloud nine.”
Dorkins said everything centered around the number 90. “The program was 90 minutes long, speakers spoke for 90 seconds and 90 roses were given to her.”
There were two cakes, one in the shape of a “9” and the other in the shape of a “0” in addition to a 90 candle birthday cake tower surrounded by mini pink roses.
The party was themed around the roaring twenties—also referred to as the Jazz Age.
With the banquet Hall decked out in roses and pink ribbons, a band performed, and people strutted the runway for a fashion show with a 1920s theme.
Dorkins said they incorporated a “Do-you-remember-when?” bulletin board and a table display filled with 1920’s artifacts.”
Phillips moved to Baltimore in 1952 from Marion, S.C. with her late husband, Thomas Phillips Sr., who passed away in 1991 at the age of 76.
“He moved to Baltimore,” Dorkins said of her late father because “he wanted a better life for his family.”
After a working life at jobs at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Department of Education, she has spent her time volunteering and visiting the sick and shut-in.
“I was so full of emotions when I saw everyone there,” Phillips told the AFRO. “I couldn’t do nothing but cry out.”
Family and friends travelled from Massachusetts, Florida and Pennsylvania. They ate fried chicken, candied yams, collard greens and rolls.
Two solo musical selections were performed. Her great-great granddaughter, Kayla McLean Jones, 8, sang, “He is an awesome God,” and Eartha Lampkin sang “Giving Me My Flowers.”
As a band played throughout the night Phillips said she “did a step or two.”
An Eastern Star, Phillips still attends meetings and is a member of Israel Baptist Church on North Chester Street in East Baltimore.
She currently lives in East Baltimore and gets around on her own frequently, still an active motorist.
To remain active inside her East Baltimore home, Phillips said she goes up and down the stairs with her cats.
“I get up in the morning and go down to the basement to check on my cats,” she said.
Phillips said she “just thanks God that He let me turn 90, that’s all.”
“I am thankful that He let me live this long.”
She received commendations from President Obama, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and a host of other elected officials from Baltimore.
She said she is looking forward to remaining in good health and becoming a centenarian—reaching 100 years of age.