Celebrating Mother Susie Mitchell’s 103rd Birthday

A Pillar of Strength


ORLANDO – One hundred and three (103) years look great on Mother Susie Mitchell.  Born on October 29, 1920, Mother Mitchell, vibrant in her purple outfit, celebrated her birthday with family, fun and food at her Pine Hills home. She is not only a stalwart to her five adult children, Olivia Boldes, Minister Bertha Rackley, Olivia Renee Reed, Leroy Henderson, Jr., Pastor Eddie Mitchell, Jr. and “adopted sons,” Reginald McGill and, Samuel Ings, she is the matriarch of a family that spans five (5) generations. Relatives from all five generations of her family were in attendance to celebrate her including her 2nd cousin from Atlanta, GA, Gwendolyn Harrison. Gwen’s dad, age 92 and her mom, age 91, Mother Susie’s first cousins and “best friends” could not attend.

All her children except for Mary Jones (deceased), gathered around her.

Children, grandchildren, and great-grands who huddled around her gave testimonials to what “Mother” means in their lives.

Mother Susie Mitchell. Her exemplary presence exudes strength, vigor, and magnetism. Her mind and spirit are dauntless. Her cheerful spirit is contagious. One cannot help but smile while talking with her.

Mother Susie recalls many vignettes of her life and so openly shared them.  Listening to her makes one hang on her every word.

Mother Mitchell grew up in Leary, GA where she says she “worked in the cotton fields; would shake peanuts; would plow the fields and ride mules.” She shows her hands and says “these hands have done a lot of work.” She chuckles and says she “didn’t have a lot of fun but loved to go to church.” She fondly and humorously said she “would follow her oldest son’s father who played in a band – he played the harmonica; his brother would pick the guitar and she would beat the drums and dance.”

As you listen to her, she says,” We went to church, came out of church and went home.” She gives thanks to her mother and father who taught her how to keep a clean house and to never be ashamed of what she did not have.”  She taught her children what she was taught to be courteous, treat others the way they wanted to be treated; joyfully, those family values persist today. She was raised firm in her beliefs.

Memories of her “white neighbors” remain vivid in her mind. When she had her oldest son, delivered by a midwife, her neighbors gave her a cow so there would be milk that she could feed the baby. She had been told that she would not have any children, but she went on to have six live births.

At that time, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) were prevalent in Leary, GA and Albany, GA. She “even heard and saw a Black man being hung” She says “they didn’t bother her family because of the relationship her family had with her white neighbors.” Her neighbors “from up the hill would allow her family to borrow from them; she was even loaned a pair of shoes.”

Mother Mitchell moved to Orlando in the early 1940’s. Her son, Leroy was three and he was born in 1938. In Orlando, there were still dirt roads rather than the cement streets as we now know them. Mother Mithell’s daughter, Bertha Rackley, her primary caregiver, tells “how mother and grandmother made sure that all six of the children were courteous and knew how to act.

They were raised in a loving family and shared meals every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. The children were not allowed to accept food from anyone other than family.”

Mother Mitchell’s wisdom prevails. She says she “is blessed and highly favored…you must start taking care of yourself while you are young; you cannot wait until you are old. She has never had surgery and still has her tonsils. She is pain free other than arthritis. She thanks God for all that she has and especially her children who take care of her.  She loves to do Word Search puzzles and loves music. Her favorite foods are fruits and vegetables.”  One of her greatest joys was when President Obama was elected – she says she never thought she would see that in her lifetime.

The “favor” that was referenced earlier is realized in the fact that in her 103-year journey, Mother Mitchell is a registered voter; is a living testimony to the goodness of God. She dresses immaculately and wears hats and jewelry to match whatever she decides to wear. Mother Susie Mitchell is a joy and a delight to hear speak about her life.  Being in her presence makes Psalm 27:1 come alive: “THE LORD is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear? THE LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (KJV)