Bowden celebrates 108th birthday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dressed in her birthday best, Willie Bowden, ate a piece of cake for the 108th time in her life Tuesday. On her landmark birthday, Bowden was surrounded with family and friends, something that has always been a big part of her life.

Although she never had any children of her own, the family and friends of &8220;Miss Willie,&8221; can all say she treated them like her own children.

Born on June 10, 1900, Bowden has seen many changes in her lifetime. After spending some time working as a secretary in St. Louis, Mo., Bowden came back to her native Sumter County when her mother became ill. She stayed with her until her death, and continued to develop her roots in the Bluffport community.

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Bowden celebrated her birthday with the staff of Woodhaven Nursing Home where she lives, but also with family members, William Maye, Angela Maye, Jonathan Burrell and Makayle Marsh.

Maye relayed a story about Bowden&8217;s way with children. Even for children who were scared around new people, Maye said they were always drawn to Bowden.

Perhaps it is her warm smile, or the way she can always find a person&8217;s ticklish spot.

Before coming to live at Woodhaven, Bowden was known as an excellent cook, Maye said. She found creative ways to cook Southern food, such as using the warmth and coolness of the earth to make all kinds of things.

Maye said he once saw he take a ripe watermelon and bury it underground.

Sitting next to him in her wheelchair, Bowden laughs at the memory.

Another underground specialty was known as an ashcake, which was basically baked underground. But no matter the technique, Maye said the good food and the good company kept everyone coming back for another visit.

Even now, Maye said people ask him all the time about her famous teacakes. For young Jonathan Burrell, his favorite dish of hers is rice pudding.