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Statesboro woman celebrates 100th birthday
022607 DEAL 100th 1
Bernice Hodges Deal celebrated her 100th birthday this week.

Bernice Deal

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    What is it like to spend 100 years in the same neighborhood? Ask Bernice Hodges Deal and she'll tell you all about growing up near Akins Pond Road, walking with friends and cousins along the creek, and marrying Horace Deal before moving  just seven miles away from where she was born.
    Deal celebrated her 100th birthday Sunday with a reception at Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church,  but she actually turned 100 Monday, enjoying the day at her home off U.S. 80 West, just across from William James Middle School.
    The farm has been home for a long time, and the area in North Bulloch County has been a safe and comforting haven for the woman who raised six children and welcomed others into her realm, offering delights such as apple tarts and German chocolate cake or baked sweet potatoes as after-school snacks.
    A dedicated farm wife who milked seven Jersey dairy cows twice daily and sold the buttermilk and butter to local grocery stores and individual customers, Deal also took time to make sure her children were well-fed, had good manners and learned to read.
    "I taught them all to read," she said. "If you can read, you can do anything."
    She helped her husband with the farm, keeping the books for him as well as maintaining the home, feeding the family and farm workers, and the milking.
    Deal credits her longevity to good food, clean living and avoiding doctors and prescribed medications.
Reception or reunion?
    Sunday, Deal sat with her daughter Carene Deal Mallard as she greeted over 150 guests who dropped by for an afternoon birthday reception.
    The party was hosted by Deal's children: the sons Hugh, Charles, Edgar, and daughters Betty Deal Stringer and Mallard. A third daughter, Helen, passed away a few years earlier.
    The air was filled with the scent of memories as everyone shared thoughts. Hugh Deal remembered how his mother was extremely attentive to her brood.
    "I had leg problems," he said. "I was bow legged, and Mother massaged my legs every day." The therapy worked, he said.
    Edgar Deal remembers how hard-working his mother had been all her life.
    "She taught us hard work wouldn't kill you, he said. 'She milked seven cows by hand, made butter and sold it to Winn Dixie, and did the gardening and canning."
    "She was a wonderful mother, very understanding, and didn't punish us too much!" Mallard said. She recalled a time when her brothers and some cousins went swimming in January during a hog-killing. (Hogs were killed during cold weather so the meat did not spoil.)
    "Most mothers would have given them a spanking," she said. "Mother just told them  they shouldn't do it."
    Charles remembered the baked sweet potatoes his mother would have waiting for them after school, and how she taught them good hygiene and grooming.
    "I still cannot go outside without my hair combed and in place," he said.
    Bernice Deal just smiled as she listened to her children, watched her grandchildren visit and her great-grandchildren scamper about during the reception.

At home, looking back over a century
    Sitting in her home Monday, Deal was asked to reflect back over her life. It is hard, she said, because so much happened "so long ago."
    Reviewing a century of major events, it is amazing at the history Deal saw in the making.
    When she was born in 1907  to Jasper and Carrie Watkins Hodges, it was also the same year the Indian and Oklahoma Territories became the 46th state - Oklahoma.
    A year later, the first ball dropped in New York's Times Square, and Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T.
     At age 10, Deal was likely still spending her Saturdays in 1917 fishing along the creek near her home, or listening to reports over the radio regarding the United States declaring war on Germany. Woodrow Wilson was president.
    As she turned 20, she  likely listened to Blind Willie McTell, the Statesboro man who made his first recording in 1927, the creator of the famous song "Statesboro Blues."
    Imagine the fascination she must have felt in 1947 at age 40 when the nation turned eyes to Roswell, New Mexico, where an alien spacecraft was reported to have crashed. Or in 1957, at age 50, when she saw the introduction of the Frisbee, the Ford Edsel, and listened to Elvis sing "Jailhouse Rock."
      Deal was 60 when the Viet Nam War began and racial riots broke out across the nation. Pink Floyd released its first album and Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
    In 1977, Deal was still on her family farm when Elvis died, snow fell in Miami for the first time in recorded history, and the first Apple II computer was released.
    When asked what she thought about the computer age, Deal said "I guess they have improved the world."
    As she turned 80 in 1987, with Ronald Reagan as president and Jessie Jackson launching his second campaign for the presidency; and as she turned 90 in 1997, when Bill Clinton was in his second term as president and O.J. Simpson led police on a slow-speed chase in his white Bronco, and when NASA landed the Pathfinder space probe on Mars,  Deal still looked over the happenings from her lifelong home.
    She recalled life at a slower pace in Bulloch County, remembering how much she loved cooking and how everyone seemed to enjoy the fruits of her labors.
    "I used to love to cook  more than anything in the world," she said.
    How has the world changed? In her eyes, surroundings may be different but the rules of life are the same.
    "Lord, (Statesboro) has changed a lot, but I think it's for the best," she said.
    Well, maybe some things. When asked how she feels about the way young people dress today, Deal pulled a face and said "Some of them could dress a little better."
    She admitted not knowing much about computers, but that doesn't matter, she said. Good advice to parents raising children in today's day and age are encouraging children to read and "just do the best they can for them."
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